Alarms blare over potential recession

Top News | Charlotte Luo 20 Sep 2019

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has warned that Hong Kong would be in a recession with a potential negative growth in the third quarter.

Chan attributed the slowdown to the Sino-US trade war and the fugitive bill protests that have hit the tourism, hotel and retail sectors hard.

"There's a possibility that the economic growth in the third quarter would be negative. If it happens, Hong Kong would enter recession technically," Chan told the state media Global Times.

"As for the economic condition in the fourth quarter, it depends on [whether] the riot events in society can be quelled."

Following Chan's HK$1.91 billion worth of sweeteners to ease the financial burden of residents, the Housing Society yesterday approved halving rents for about 400 commercial tenants for six months from next month to March next year. This will cost about HK$76 million.

"In view of the prevailing situation, we hope to stand shoulder to shoulder with Hong Kong people during the difficult time by offering rent concession to help alleviate the financial burden of our commercial tenants and support them to continue to serve our residents," the society's chief executive Wong Kit-loong said after the rent concession was approved by the executive committee.

The concession does not include rates, management fee and air-conditioning charges.

It also will not apply to some tenants, including banks, supermarkets, kindergartens, public bodies and nongovernment organizations paying lower rents. Eligible commercial tenants will be informed in writing by the end of this month.

Chan said the government plans to promote Hong Kong globally when the unrest ends, but it will take some time for the number of tourists to rebound, "so the economic challenge in the fourth quarter is still big."

Chan said the government is determined to deal with land and housing issues. He expects the government to resume 700 hectares of land in the coming five years via the Land Resumption Ordinance.

The 700 hectares of land cover three projects in Fan Ling North and Kwu Tung North New Development Area, Hung Shui Kiu New Development Area, and Yuen Long South New Development Area.

The government will also resume some private lands to build infrastructures.

"In addition, we will actively examine if some farmland can be used to build public housing. If needed, we will use the ordinance to collect the land," he said.

The Pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong met with the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong to discuss the proposed use of the Land Resumption Ordinance.

DAB head Starry Lee Wai-king said she hopes realtors will willingly offer some land to build public housing.

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