Mr YUEN Mo (Chairman of the 52nd terms of office) March 2022
At this very moment, the top priority is of course to curb the spread of COVID in Hong Kong. We hope the HKSAR government can control the epidemic as soon as possible. On the part of CGCC, we are also contributing to the anti-epidemic effort.
President Xi Jinping has given important instructions on supporting Hong Kong’s fight against the fifth wave of the epidemic. We are deeply encouraged by the country’s staunch support, which has ignited hopes that Hong Kong will get the situation under control soon, and that economic activities and people’s lives will return to normal. Meanwhile, the new Budget delivered by the Financial Secretary in February put forward a number of relief measures to provide local residents and industries impacted by the epidemic with more to-the-point financial support. By allocating resources to foster long-term economic and industrial development, the Budget has also given impetus to Hong Kong’s economic growth in the post-epidemic era.
The country’s backup offers a boost to Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic fight
In face of the dire COVID situation, we are grateful for the Central government’s concrete and comprehensive support. President Xi personally directed the city’s anti-epidemic effort, asking the HKSAR government to fulfil three “all-s” and two “guarantees”. This is a testament to the country’s genuine concern for the well-being of Hong Kong, and gives a boost to the city’s fight against the epidemic.
From enhancing the city’s virus testing capacity, to supplying quarantine and medical facilities, and offering help to build mobile cabin hospitals, the Central government’s assistance has greatly strengthened Hong Kong’s defense against the epidemic. In addition, Xia Baolong, Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, presided over a series of pandemic control coordination meetings in Shenzhen to help Hong Kong prepare for universal testing. The provincial government of Guangdong has also made special arrangements to ensure stable supplies including fresh food and daily necessities to Hong Kong. The all-round support from the country allows the HKSAR government and the local community to focus their energy on containing the spread of COVID.
Relief measures alleviate financial pressure
Amid the severe COVID outbreak, the Budget presented numerous one-off measures to provide the public and businesses with immediate financial relief. These measures include the distribution of HKD10,000 in electronic consumption vouchers to each eligible resident, which is going to invigorate the consumer market once the epidemic is stabilized. When the epidemic eases, the HKSAR government can consider organizing large-scale consumer promotions with the retail and dining sectors to boost morale and improve the market atmosphere.
We are pleased to see that the Budget has adopted many of CGCC’s recommendations on helping businesses during this difficult time, such as reducing profits tax, providing rates concession, and waiving various government fees. In particular, the extension of the application period of all guarantee products under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme and the extension of the Pre-approved Principal Payment Holiday Scheme are offering SMEs more flexible cash-flow arrangements. We hope the authorities can further raise the guarantee threshold for SMEs and regularize the related subsidies to help SMEs stabilize their cash flow.
Regarding the rental enforcement moratorium for tenants of specific sectors, we understand that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and that the authorities want to give tenants of epidemic-struck sectors some breathing space. However, the moratorium may negatively affect some individual landlords and small businesses that rely on rents for their operation and cash flow. For both tenants and landlords to benefit, the authorities can perhaps consider providing tenants with rental subsidies, and offering landlords incentives to let their tenants defer rent payment or reduce rents.
Enriching industrial development to complement Greater Bay Area’s Growth
The Budget also laid eyes on the long term and proposed various policies to promote economic diversification, from beefing up resources for the development of innovation and technology (I&T), to promoting the development of “Smart Port”. Lined up with the immense opportunities presented by the country’s 14th Five-Year-Plan and dual circulation strategy, and the deepened development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area), these policies are expected to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the long run. As a core growth engine of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong is both an important participant in the country’s domestic circulation, and a facilitator of international circulation in the “dual circulation” development strategy. To this end, we urge the authorities to accelerate the consolidation of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park and the areas around Lok Ma Chau/San Tin, directly engage world-class scientific research institutions, and promote the conversion of scientific research results in the Greater Bay Area, so as to consolidate Hong Kong’s important role in the establishment of an international I&T hub in the Greater Bay Area. The HKSAR government can also explore setting up an independent policy bureau to concentrate efforts on enhancing Hong Kong’s position as an international maritime center, and actively look into further cooperation with the Mainland in areas like maritime and logistics services and talent training, so that Hong Kong can fully utilize its advantage in the development of maritime services in the Greater Bay Area.
The Budget proposed setting up the “GBA Investment Fund” and launching the “Support Scheme for Pursuing Development in the Mainland” to support Hong Kong businesses to tap into opportunities in the Greater Bay Area. We hope that the HKSAR government will strengthen communication with the business sector, and provide further support for Hong Kong entrepreneurs to start businesses, invest and open up the Greater Bay Area market, with a view to promoting high-quality projects in the Greater Bay Area and creating more opportunities for Hong Kong businesses.
At this very moment, the top priority is of course to curb the spread of COVID in Hong Kong. We hope the HKSAR government will actively coordinate various sectors and resources, and leverage the Central government’s extensive support to control the epidemic as soon as possible. On the part of CGCC, we have launched the “Together, We Fight the Virus” initiative, under which anti-epidemic supplies are donated to the grassroots. We are also mobilizing our members and the business sector to contribute to the anti-epidemic effort.