Chief Executive Carrie Lam will deliver the fourth Policy Address of her term of office this month. The pandemic has hit Hong Kong’s economy badly, and the business community has been caught in an unprecedented predicament, with high unemployment and people’s livelihoods being battered.
As such, the Government should put in place comprehensive measures to fight the epidemic. Top priority should be given to protecting people’s lives and safety, while longer term measures also need to be formulated to prepare for future economic recovery.
I met with Chief Executive Carrie Lam last month and suggested that the Government launch a third round of the Anti-epidemic Fund to deal with the current acute challenges. This should include extending the Employment Support Scheme; raising the maximum loan amount for 100% guarantee products; as well as allocating $300 million to roll out a consumer voucher programme covering the catering, retail and tourism sectors.
I have also urged the Government to draw up medium- and long-term measures to drive Hong Kong’s economic recovery. These include creating new attractions to boost Hong Kong’s appeal to tourists; speeding up urban redevelopment and relaxing the plot ratio of urban industrial and commercial land; withdrawing the “harsh measures” on commercial and residential properties to increase the supply of land and housing; as well as setting up a $1 billion Youth Professional Development Fund.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong should get in line with the Mainland’s “Dual Circulation” development pattern, with domestic and international economic cycles boosting each other. And we should proactively participate in the national 14th Five-Year Plan. I also recommended that the Chief Executive give out free flight and high-speed rail tickets to SMEs and business travellers. This will help them to further expand into domestic and foreign markets.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and banks accepted my earlier proposal on increasing the duration of the principal moratorium scheme for six months, and extending the application period for principal moratorium for the 80% and 90% Guarantee Products under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme. These measures have helped to alleviate the cash flow pressure for enterprises. Indeed, the HKMA and banks have been swift in taking action in response to the pandemic. I hope that the authorities will continue to listen to the business community and introduce practical measures to ease the recent liquidity pressure on SMEs.
As the pandemic eases, we must plan early for economic recovery in the post Covid-19 era. With the Mainland being the fastest economy in the world to recover from the pandemic, the SAR Government should roll out the health code as soon as possible to enable cross-border travel between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. This will ensure that Hong Kong residents can proactively participate in the development of the Greater Bay Area and give full play to our strengths.