As it happened: Hong Kong budget - consumption vouchers doubled in fresh round to HK$10,000, SME tenants get 6-month rental payment delay
- First HK$5,000 of HK$10,000-voucher scheme expected in April, with Financial Secretary Paul Chan dishing out more sweeteners, especially for struggling businesses
- City’s fiscal health in the black compared with previous forecast of a deficit of HK$101.6 billion
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Hong Kong’s finance chief presented his final budget address on Wednesday, rolling out an anti-pandemic fund totalling HK$64 billion, with another HK$20 billion to support residents and businesses hammered by a worsening public health crisis.
A fresh round of spending coupons totalling HK$10,000 for permanent residents will also be handed out, with the first half to come in April. The total bill for the new voucher scheme will cost the government HK$66.4 billion.
The measures will serve as a shot in the arm for the struggling economy, which grew only 3 per cent this year, after a 6.4 per cent increase last year from 2020. This year's economic growth is forecast to be anywhere between 2 and 3 per cent.
As the fifth wave of coronavirus infections continued to worsen, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po made a speech covering four themes. The first two included mobilising adequate resources to fight the pandemic forcefully and giving relief to residents and small businesses.
The other two themes centred on providing support to the economy to drive a post-pandemic recovery, and to invest in the future, focusing on medium and long-term development.
The coming measures are aimed at shoring up the struggling economy and paving the way for post-pandemic growth.
It was expected that the city’s fiscal health would remain in the black compared with a previous forecast of a deficit of HK$101.6 billion (US$13 billion), due to higher revenue from stamp duty and land sales.
Still, it could be the third consecutive year that the Hong Kong government spent beyond what it earned, after recording a deficit of HK$10.6 billion in 2019-20 and HK$232.5 billion in 2020-21.
Chan also suggested an overhaul of the property tax system that would cut concessions for owners of multiple homes and raise rates on more valuable properties.
In a departure from the usual practice of delivering the budget speech in the Legislative Council, Chan instead live-streamed his presentation to observe social distancing.
Our live blog below captured details as they were unveiled. Reporting by Denise Tsang, Tony Cheung, Joyce Ng, Lilian Cheng, Elizabeth Cheung and Kathleen Magramo