HK to give big cash handouts as economy reels from virus
HONG KONG: Hong Kong's government yesterday said it will give a HK$10,000 (S$1,800) handout to seven million permanent residents in a bid to jump-start a recession-hit economy now compounded by the coronavirus outbreak.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan unveiled the cash gift in an annual budget, committing a colossal HK$120 billion to help alleviate the worst economic downturn the international financial hub has faced in a decade.
Hong Kong boasts significant fiscal reserves of more than HK$1 trillion built up over the boom years, a stockpile that the government is now tapping into.
The cash handout alone will cost HK$71 billion but officials hope consumers will plough much of the money back into local businesses.
"Making good use of fiscal reserves to support enterprises and relieve people's hardship is certainly in line with our people's expectations," he said, adding the cash handout was for permanent residents aged 18 or above, including those residing overseas.
Mr Chan said the stimulus and lower revenues would push government coffers into the red by a record HK$139.1 billion in the coming fiscal year, the first deficit in 15 years.
Hong Kong's economy is reeling from the US-China trade war, months of pro-democracy protests last year and now the coronavirus: a triple whammy Mr Chan described as "exceptionally austere".
Other measures announced in the budget included profits and salary tax breaks as well as low interest loans for businesses struggling to pay staff wages.
"Hong Kong's economy is facing enormous challenges this year," Mr Chan said, predicting a range of 0.5 per cent growth to a 1.5 per cent contraction this year. - AFP