On 24 February, Financial Secretary Paul Chan released details of the city’s latest budget which revealed a plan to continue supporting businesses and citizens, while effectively managing the city’s deficit.
During the past year, the Government’s HK$300 billion pandemic relief fund has served as a critical lifeline for the business community. With the vaccination roll-out now under way, we hope to see the resumption of normal business operations over the course of the year, which will enable Hong Kong to return to growth.
We are pleased to see that the Financial Secretary has responded to the immediate needs of our community, and has incorporated many of the Chamber’s suggestions including reducing profits tax, waiving certain business fees, and extending programmes such as the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme. All of these measures will help companies to moderate their cash flows and to maintain essential levels of liquidity. The additional allocation of HK$1 billion for the Distance Business Programme is especially supportive of Hong Kong businesses that aim to embrace digitisation and the expansive e-commerce landscape.
The budget is also aligned with the Government’s long-term policy goals of creating a greener city. We were pleased to see the Financial Secretary adopt HKGCC’s suggestion of expanding the Government Green Bond Programme, and to start issuing retail green bonds. Other environmental initiatives, such as those that incentivise the production and sale of electric vehicles, will not only help us to reduce our emissions but show how we are ready to play a key role in our region’s low-carbon transition.
The Government’s decision to offer residents HK$5,000 in consumption vouchers will help families with regular expenses. The e-voucher format also means that the money will serve its intended purpose of boosting the local economy.
As the Financial Secretary noted in his address, we can take a broadly positive view of our future. Hong Kong is ideally positioned to benefit from the Mainland’s growth as well as the opportunities emerging in Southeast Asia.
Achieving a full recovery ultimately depends on getting the Covid-19 pandemic under control. Only then will we be able to relax the social-distancing measures and plan for the resumption of international travel.
This has been an exceptionally tough year, but with the arrival of the first vaccines in Hong Kong, and international vaccination programmes up and running around the world, it seems we can finally start to look forward to a brighter future.