HKSAR gov't may enhance relief measures as novel coronavirus outbreak adds to economic woes: officials
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government may enhance the existing economic relief measures as the novel coronavirus outbreak has added to the woes of Hong Kong's economy, officials of the HKSAR government said on Sunday.
Hong Kong's economy, already weighed down by the external environment and social unrest, has been hit further since the beginning of this year due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung said in an article published on his official blog.
With the business environment unlikely to improve in the short term, some sectors in Hong Kong have seen sluggish business and business closures and rising unemployment are expected in the future, he said, adding that the HKSAR government will closely monitor the outbreak's impact on various sectors and provide them with appropriate assistance.
The HKSAR government will set up a 10-billion-Hong Kong-dollar fund to support the community in preventing and controlling the outbreak. It will also review the four rounds of economic relief measures it announced last year and may extend their validity or intensify them if necessary, he said.
The sectors of tourism, retail and restaurant have been hit badly by the outbreak as the number of tourists to Hong Kong dropped sharply.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan noted in another article that the novel coronavirus outbreak's impact on Hong Kong's economy may be even greater than Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), because currently the tourism and retail sectors contribute more to the economy than in 2003.
Pressure on the local labor market is expected to increase, and the latest unemployment rate to be released in the middle of this month is likely to be higher than the 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, Chan said.
The rapid changes in the outbreak have brought greater challenges to the compilation of the annual budget to be published in about two weeks, Chan said, adding that the HKSAR government is assessing the latest impact of the outbreak on Hong Kong's economy and reviewing the appropriateness of various measures. (1 HK dollars equals 0.13 USD)