Hong Kong voucher scheme to provide timely relief during coronavirus pandemic
- Unlike previous cash handouts which may have been put in the bank by recipients, the e-vouchers are guaranteed to boost retail, dining and other industries and will arrive after 17 months of economic hardship fuelled by the pandemic
Even before the full details of the shopping voucher scheme were formally announced on Friday, the hype over the past few months has already inspired eager minds to make the most of it.
Coming after 17 months of economic hardship fuelled by a devastating pandemic, the government handout is needed more than ever. It should provide some timely relief to individuals and the economy as a whole.
Unlike previous cash handouts which may have been put in the bank by recipients, the e-vouchers to be made available in phases are guaranteed to boost retail, dining and other industries.
Those using e-wallets can get money in two instalments. Stored-value Octopus cards may stretch the money over longer months in three instalments.
The first batch is payable as early as August. Overseas online shopping platforms as well as payments to the government and fees such as tuition and school expenses are excluded.
The HK$36 billion (US$4.64 billion) subsidy scheme creates more than just a feel-good sentiment. The money can have an enormous impact on the local economy.
The option of two or three instalments, depending on the payment methods, also caters for different shopping preferences and spreads out the benefits.
Flexibility and access are the key to maximising the impact. It is good that the competing payment platforms have offered promotions and perks to attract more traders and consumers.
For instance, Octopus, currently used by up to 98 per cent the city’s 7.5 million population and some 62,000 retail outlets and eateries, has budgeted HK$1 million to help some 100 small businesses with digital marketing.
Hong Kong’s first HK$5,000 vouchers to be delivered from August 1, with residents given at least five months to spend them
Alipay, operated by Alibaba which also owns the Post, is offering a HK$30 coupon to new users before June 30.
The battered economy obviously needs more than just a temporary dose of relief to recover. As Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said, even though a stabilising of the pandemic has raised the momentum for economic recovery, the unemployment rate is still far from pre-Covid levels.
He stopped short of quantifying the stimulus effects of the voucher scheme, which were earlier put at 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product, saying the actual impact depends on the pandemic situation and consumer sentiment.
It is to be hoped that the initiative will benefit as many businesses and people as possible.