Slash prices to help HK, brands urged

Top News | Angel Kwan 25 Oct 2019

Luxury brands and shops should offer sales to boost local consumption, pro-establishment legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee says, as she questions the effectiveness of the government's relief measures on boosting the economy.

Ip, from the New People's Party and an executive councillor, was speaking at the Legislative Council's second reading debate on an amendment bill that would allow one-off salaries and profits tax cuts.

She said the government's proposed relief measures are like "squeezing toothpaste" and questioned their effectiveness.

"Has the government ever thought of urging all the luxury stores and malls to offer sales to heal people's wounds?" she suggested.

Ip also said the government should think of ways to attract tourists, such as providing shopping discounts to those who show their foreign passports or entry permits.

"The government should think of some gimmicks," she said.

But Ip said the most important issue now is to stop violence as the protest movement would not stop by itself.

"They [protesters] have lost control," Ip said. "The government should pull violence down at the same time, to make sure Hong Kong is a safe city."

She said Hong Kong has lots of suppressed demands and the problem is that local consumers do not have the desire to consume.

Liberal Party lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai, who represents the wholesale and retail sector, said there have not been large-scale campaigns as the unrest is still ongoing.

"After SARS [in 2003] and the Occupy movement in 2014, many businesses launched sales to attract customers," Shiu said. "Some even gave away free air-tickets but they would not do it during this period as the effect would not be significant."

He said most stores are in malls and the usual practice is for mall stores to launch sales at the same time. "If there are stores that are targeted by violent protesters in the mall, should the mall be launching a sale? Would that attract customers or bring more vandalism?" he said.

Lawmaker Chan Kin-por, also the finance committee chairman, said the government should provide more benefits to people, including tax exemptions for those earning less than HK$50,000 a month.

He said housing problems are the main reason why teenagers are taking to the streets.

A regular Chanel and Louis Vuitton buyer in her 30s said she would not shop even for bargains as she felt the situation is "too grim."

Another businesswoman from Shenzhen, in her 20s, said luxury bags would most probably be cheaper in Europe these days, even if there is a promotion in Hong Kong.

The 2019-20 budget proposed one-off reductions of salaries tax, tax under personal assessment and profits tax by 75 percent, with a ceiling of HK$20,000 per case.

The government suggested in August to increase such reduction to 100 percent.

It is expected to benefit 1.91 million salaries taxpayers and 145,000 businesses.

The Inland Revenue (Amendment) (Tax Concessions) Bill passed the second reading yesterday.

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