Policy Address 19/20: Policy Address fails to alleviate economic concerns of SMEs
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed concern about the "pressure borne by small and medium-sized enterprises and members of the public amid an economic downturn," but unveiled no further measures to aid such enterprises in her policy address today.
Between the US-China trade war and the ongoing political conflict in Hong Kong. "The global economic growth has slowed since late 2018," said Mrs. Lam
"Violent acts in the recent months have aggravated the situation, posing an unprecedented challenge to our economy," Mrs. Lam, said in her third policy address.
"Since July this year, there have been sharp reductions in visitor arrivals due to the airport halt and retail sales, a continued decline in trade exports as well as deeply dampened businesses, investment and consumption sentiments. Certain industries have recorded the worst business performance ever," she said.
Besides assisting Hong Kong enterprises through promoting products and services to the mainland market, the government is also seeking policy support for "tax concessions for the city's enterprises that want to switch from exports to domestic sales and streamlining of the approval process" to bolster competitiveness in the Mainland domestic market.
SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED BUSINESSES
As of January 2017, 330,000 SMEs operate in Hong Kong, accounting for 98.3% of total business units and providing job opportunities to over 1.3 million people, according to the government's official website.
Some retail businesses said they are not under a great deal of pressure due to a dependable amount of local customers that they know will continue to come in regularly.
A saleswoman at a folk costume shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, who did not wish to reveal her identity, said, "Our business has not been affected because our customers are mostly locals."
Mr. Leung, a staff member at Japanese restaurant Betsutenjin in Tsim Sha Tsui, said that his business has also not been affected. Instead, it has gotten better due some nearby restaurants being closed.
But, this is not the case for all businesses in the city. Mr. Wong, 58, an owner of a pharmacy in Tsim Sha Tsui, said, "There has been less foot traffic recently and business has been adversely affected." He said the Chief Executive's policies have been of no practical use at all.
"Even though we can get loans from the scheme, we are unable to repay them afterwards as we aren't making a lot of profit," said Mr. Wong.
Felix Chung Kwok-pan, leader of the Liberal Party, said that SMEs in Hong Kong have been in decline by 30% to 80%, despite recent policies such as delaying payments for bank loans to help aid these businesses. He adds, "The economic measures is only two pages long. It's not comprehensive. We shall ask the government to ask the monetary authority to relieve the economic measures."
The policy address also stressed raising the performance of the tourism industry and recouping the image of Hong Kong.
In a bid to tackle the tourism downfall in Hong Kong, which has been linked to the pro-democracy protests by the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, this year's policy address outlined plans to boost the industry and focus on green and heritage tourism, echoing similar plans from previous years. This would see the industry relying less on retail and mainland visitors.
Included in the scheme were potential developments to Wong Nai Chung Gap trail, enhancement of facilities at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and establishing Pak Tam Chung as a "green tourism hub".
With tourism being one of the four pillar industries of Hong Kong's economic growth, Mrs. Lam divulged similar plans in 2018 aimed at upgrading facilities in hiking trails, piers and the Peak tram, aiming to promote local green tourism.
The number of mainland China visitors to Hong Kong was axed in half to 670,000 when compared to last year's "Golden Week period". There was also a 40% drop in the number of visitors in August, compared to the same period last year.
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