Paul Chan: still "room for improvement" for voucher scheme
Financial chief Paul Chan Mo-po has again defended the instalments of HK$5,000 electronic vouchers in his annual budget, saying the coupons can boost the city's battered economy.
Chan's remarks three days after the release of his 2021-2022 budget, which proposed to issue five digital vouchers each month, each valued at HK$1,000, to around 7.2 million residents and new immigrants.
Recipients must spend the entire HK$1,000 within a specific timeframe.
In a radio program, Chan said the sweetener will help the catering sector, severely impacted by social distancing restrictions amid the pandemic, to retain its employees as the city faced a seven percent jobless rate amid an economic downturn in the past two years.
He hoped the electronic vouchers can stimulate local consumption across the retailing and catering industries and stabilize the job market.
But he conceded there's room for "fine adjustments" to the vouchers, which were heavily criticized for the limitations like the expiry dates and the limited number of small stores that accept electronic payments. Some also cast doubts over its effectiveness comparing to a direct cash handout.
"There is room for fine modifications, but what should be adjusted still requires discussion," he said.
Chan added Hong Kong is expected to recover its economy in the second-half year as the city's mass vaccination drive kicked off yesterday.
According to the current plans, the vouchers will be distributed through electronic payment operators. People will be able to use the vouchers at both physical or online local retailers, but they were not compatible with overseas merchants.