With daily Covid-19 infections still rising and the economy diving to one of its worst levels in decades, the government has rightly rolled out more relief measures for the public. But such largesse has also raised questions about fiscal prudence and sustainability. Adjustments are needed to ensure subsidies end up in the hands of those most in need. The requirement for two supermarket giants to provide shopping discounts in return for wage subsidies in the second phase of the Employment Support Scheme is to be welcomed. Similarly, large property management firms will be asked to offer a rebate of 80 per cent of the wage subsidies they seek to property owners. The government has finally conceded that moneymaking businesses have been benefiting from the scheme. Dairy Farm, which runs supermarkets including Wellcome and Market Place by Jasons, 7-Eleven convenience stores, Mannings and Ikea, has received HK$399 million (US$51.5 million). ParknShop pocketed HK$161 million, while its parent group AS Watson, part of Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings, took more than HK$100 million. The concessions required from some companies may be seen as a belated effort to ensure taxpayers’ money given to profit-making concerns still benefits the public. But when it comes to discounts and bargains, supermarkets often adopt an array of tactics that makes it difficult to gauge the real benefits for customers. Monitoring and compliance will be an issue, and officials seemed to have little idea how to do this when asked for details on Tuesday. The HK$44 billion giveaway in the first phase of subsidies has benefited some 1.9 million employees. The government believes the two rounds of wage subsidies will exceed the HK$81.4 billion approved by the legislature. However, the financial burden goes beyond this because the government has committed HK$280 billion, or 10 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product, to help Hong Kong ride out the storm. With the economy expected to shrink by up to 8 per cent this year following a 9 per cent drop in the second quarter, the worst is yet to come. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has warned against digging too deep into the city’s reserves, but during a pandemic and with public coffers bulging with hundreds of billions of dollars, the need for further relief measures can never be ruled out. The government maintains that the criteria for wage subsidies should be simple, thereby making abuses inevitable. Even though the 387 complaints received so far may look insignificant for a scheme covering some 148,500 applications in the first stage, fiscal prudence should not be sacrificed at the expense of speed and convenience. Every effort must be made to ensure that subsidies genuinely help the people.