Macleod delivers cuts to spending

FINANCIAL Secretary Hamish Macleod's Budget pledge to cut spending has been firmly delivered in the first quarter.

Figures released yesterday showed Government spending over the three months fell by 0.4 per cent.

This compared with 7.6 per cent growth in the previous quarter, and a 7.4 per cent increase in the same period last year.

While Government expenditure was falling, private consumption continued to accelerate, rising 7.1 per cent against seven per cent in the last three months of 1992, although this was down on the 8.7 per cent seen in the first quarter of last year.

Despite the significant fall in Government expenditure, the gross domestic product of Hong Kong in the first quarter continued to gain momentum, although there were signs of some weakening in investment programmes.

Overall growth in the period was 5.3 per cent, up from 5.1 per cent in the last period of 1992, and sharply ahead of the 4.7 per cent growth recorded a year earlier.


The first-quarter growth confirmed that Hong Kong's economic growth had been maintaining a firm upward trend, and equalled the outcome for the whole of 1992, although the third quarter of last year showed a 5.7 per cent gain.

Yesterday's figures continued to reflect powerful growth on the mainland, as the austerity crunch is unlikely to show up in Hong Kong's GDP until the current quarter.

However, analysts yesterday said that the GDP growth was in line with expectations, and confirmed their longer-term forecasts, which had been little altered by the China slowdown.

''I have been forecasting 5.4 per cent for the year, and I am not changing that,'' said Ranjan Pal, chief regional economist with Jardine Fleming.


The big switch to a declining Government expenditure reflects the policies which Mr Macleod set out in his March Budget, when he explained that the Government was making greater use of private sector resources.

While Hong Kong's capital assets in the first quarter rose by 7.2 per cent, this was the lowest increase since the first quarter of 1991, when the growth was 5.2 per cent.


A year before it had been 7.5 per cent, while in the last quarter of 1992 it was up 9.6 per cent.