Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced today that the government will give away a HK$10,000 (about US$1,300) cash handout to every adult permanent resident in Hong Kong as the city reels from the combined economic shocks of a bruising trade war, months of protests, and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
In a budget speech, Chan said that although he expected a drop in government revenue in the coming year due to the economic downturn, he believed the SAR government — which is suffering a historic deficit in terms of public trust — should be taking measures to help residents “overwhelmed by a heavy atmosphere.”
“After careful consideration, I have decided to disburse the HK$10,000 to Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 or above in an attempt to encourage and boost local consumption on the one hand, and to ease people’s financial burden on the other,” Chan said.
The financial chief added that the measure, which will require an expenditure of HK$71 billion, is expected to benefit some seven million people.
“The government will lay out the details of the scheme as soon as possible after obtaining funding approval from the Legislative Council,” he said.
Speaking at another press briefing later in the day, Chan revealed that once the funding approval from the Legislative Council has been secured in late May, the scheme will be open for applications starting around July.
The pro-Beijing government, which is currently as unpopular as it has ever been, has found itself under intense pressure from lawmakers to consider such economic incentives — especially from those in the pro-establishment camp, who have suffered bitterly over months of anti-government sentiment.
Regina Ip Lau Shuk-yi, lawmaker from the pro-Beijing New People’s Party, said she welcomed the cash handouts, but said they should not be limited to permanent residents only, while pro-dem Wu Chi-wai said they should not be restricted to those over 18.
The secretary also announced tax cuts to help local businesses, which have been hit hard by the recent unrest.
Chan said that the government is also planning to waive business registration fees for the coming year, and is setting up low-interest loans for small and medium-sized enterprises.
An extra month’s payment will also be given to recipients of the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, Old Age Living Allowance, Disability Allowance, and Work Incentive Transport Subsidy.
The Hospital Authority will also receive an extra HK$600 million to bolster services amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.