Jeffrey Lam is the Chamber's Legco Representative
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Three years since the pandemic began, cross-border travel between Hong Kong and the Mainland has eventually resumed, and life is returning to normal. Despite the Lunar New Year holiday coming to an end, people in Hong Kong are still hoping to see Financial Secretary Paul Chan hand out red packets in his upcoming Budget, while the business community would like the Government to offer tax relief measures.
After such a long and hard struggle, Hong Kong is now at a critical moment, poised at the crossroads of returning to normalcy and economic recovery. With the gradual roll-back of Covid restrictions, the rising number of Mainland and overseas visitors will bring a huge boost to the city’s tourism, retail, catering and hospitality sectors.
However, with many businesses already suffering a drastic fall in turnover with reserves almost exhausted, and others forced to close down, it will be no easy task for them to pull off a comeback.
At this crucial point of economic rejuvenation, the Government should be bold and decisive in making good use of its fiscal reserves to revitalize the economy by allocating resources where they are needed. Otherwise, it will be too late as companies – particularly small businesses – cannot afford to wait any longer.
To that end, I suggest additional tax rebates be introduced in the Budget. Banks should also offer interest-free loans to SMEs with government guarantees, which would help businesses meet expenditures such as rent, cost of goods and headcount increases. Meanwhile, the Pre-approved Principal Payment Holiday Scheme should be extended.
If a new round of consumption vouchers were to be distributed, this would help stimulate local consumption and drive business growth, which will be conducive to restoring our social and economic vitality.
Under the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” Hong Kong enjoys a unique advantage of leveraging the Mainland while engaging with the world. Speaking at a summit, Chan said with the launch of a series of measures on “competing for enterprises” and “competing for talent,” many leading IT companies and high-tech startups are considering setting up their headquarters in Hong Kong. I believe this will help attract talent to our city.
The Government has been also seeking to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, with a view to further enhancing our status as an international trade centre and creating more business and investment opportunities. With boundless opportunities ahead, Hong Kong is set to thrive and flourish in the Year of the Rabbit.