With Hong Kong’s GDP contracting by 8.9% in the first quarter, the largest decline on record, it is clear that the blow of the coronavirus on the local economy has gone beyond that of SARS, and that we are heading into a deep recession.
As the pandemic eases, Hong Kong needs to strike a balance between epidemic prevention and economic development, with a view to restarting the economy as soon as possible.
I have made a number of suggestions to the SAR Government, including wage subsidies, principal moratorium for corporate loans, the Special 100% Loan Guarantee under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme as well as an appropriate relaxation of quarantine restrictions. Meanwhile, I have urged the Government to simplify the approval procedures for the Special 100% Loan Guarantee, and to put in place the announced relief measures as soon as possible, to help tide businesses over.
In the short to medium term, the Government should readjust its strategies to promote the development of emerging industries, to truly “safeguard jobs and support enterprises,” while leveraging the unique advantages of Hong Kong under “one country, two systems.”
I suggest the Government further streamline the application procedures of the SME Export Marketing Fund and BUD Fund, as well as expand the scope of projects under the funds to cover other economies and Hong Kong.
The Government should also consider subsidizing Hong Kong businesses to participate in all exhibitions organized by the Trade Development Council, while providing incentives for Mainland and overseas buyers to take part. In addition, more new channels such as online sourcing exhibitions should be developed to lift Hong Kong’s economy out of the trough.
In the current climate, the Government should encourage the resumption of economic activities in an orderly manner, allowing society to gradually recover.
The arrival of June has brought change to the Chamber. I would like to thank Aron Harilela for his work over the past two years, during which he was committed to improving the business environment. I’d also like to congratulate Peter Wong on his election as Chairman. With his solid experience in the banking, public and private sectors, I believe he can lead the Chamber forward. Finally, I welcome George Leung as CEO. With his extensive experience, he will surely provide strong leadership to the Chamber at this time of adversity.
While there is change at the top there is also continuity, as both Peter and George are longstanding Chamber members, and I look forward to working with them both.