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Hong Kong’s finance chief is presenting his final budget address on Wednesday and is expected to roll out an anti-pandemic fund totalling HK$64 billion, with another HK$20 billion to support residents and businesses hammered by a worsening public health crisis.
A fresh round of spending coupons totalling HK$10,000 for permanent residents will also be handed out, with the first half to come in April. The total bill for the new voucher scheme will cost the government HK$66.4 billion.
The measures will serve as a shot in the arm for the struggling economy, which grew only 3 per cent this year, after a 6.4 per cent increase last year from 2020. This year’s economic growth is forecast to be anywhere between 2 and 3 per cent.
As the fifth wave of coronavirus infections worsens, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po is set to make a speech covering four themes. The first two include mobilising adequate resources to fight the pandemic forcefully and giving relief to residents and small businesses.
The other two themes centre on providing support to the economy to drive a post-pandemic recovery, and to invest in the future, focusing on medium and long-term development.
The coming measures are aimed at shoring up the struggling economy and paving the way for post-pandemic growth.
It is expected that the city’s fiscal health will remain in the black compared with a previous forecast of a deficit of HK$101.6 billion (US$13 billion), due to higher revenue from stamp duty and land sales.
Still, it could be the third consecutive year that the Hong Kong government has spent beyond what it earned, after recording a deficit of HK$10.6 billion in 2019-20 and HK$232.5 billion in 2020-21.
Chan is also expected to require owners of multiple, luxury properties to pay more tax and lose some concessions to boost government revenue, according to sources.
In a departure from delivering the budget speech in the Legislative Council, Chan will instead live-stream his presentation to observe social distancing.
Follow our live blog below for details as they are unveiled. Reporting by Denise Tsang, Tony Cheung, Joyce Ng, Lilian Cheng, Elizabeth Cheung and Kathleen Magramo