Boost coming for nearly two dozen industries

Top News | Maisy Mok 16 Sep 2020

About HK$24 billion will be distributed to at least 23 industries affected by social-distancing measures in the third batch of the Anti-Epidemic Fund.

Included in this is the one-off Catering Business Subsidy Scheme of HK$1.67 billion.

Under the scheme, restaurants can each receive a one-off subsidy of up to HK$250,000 while karaoke establishments, nightclubs and bars are eligible for a one-off subsidy of HK$25,000 each.

The government also injected HK$350 million to the subsidy scheme for beauty parlors, massage establishments and party rooms, benefiting 11,000 chains and 500 party rooms.

Each beauty and massage chain gets a maximum one-off subsidy of HK$1.5 million. Affected party rooms can each apply for a one-off subsidy of HK$20,000.

The government also will provide one-off subsidy schemes for the aviation sector, private schools, fitness centers and mahjong establishments.

The HK4.5 billion will extend the Special Scheme of Assistance to the unemployed under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme for six months, involving HK$724 million.

Although the latest round of the Anti-Epidemic Fund costs much less than the HK$137.6 billion in the second round, it will further increase the government's fiscal deficit for this financial year to HK$300 billion.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said the HK$300 billion is equal to 10 to 11 percent of Hong Kong's GDP.

He estimated that the latest round will provide more than 5 percent of GDP support.

Chan said the fiscal reserves will drop to HK$800 billion, about the same level as during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and equivalent to 12 to 13 months of government expenditure.

In the latest round of funding, the government injected HK$5 billion for extending the coverage of rental concessions and waiving government fees for groups, and extending the rental reduction for government properties and short-term tenancies of government land by 75 percent.

The government will waive 34 groups of government fees and charges for a year.

The 75 percent waiver of water and sewage charges for water consumption for nondomestic purposes will be extended for four more months.

In the third and fourth quarters, the upper limit of rates concession for nonresidential tenements is increased from HK$1,500 per quarter to HK$5,000.

"The government has requested the Hong Kong Housing Authority, Housing Society, Science Park and Cyberport to provide rent exemption for nondomestic tenements, involving HK$1 billion," Chan said.

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said about HK$11.7 billion of the HK$24 billion in the third round of funding will go to purchase vaccines and support the Hospital Authority during the winter flu surge.

"The fund also covers the cost of setting up testing centers for elderly and disability homes, and for the Food and Environment Bureau to promote electronic payment in wet markets," he said.

maisy.mok@singtaonewscorp.com

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