Hong Kong’s largest pro-establishment party has called on the government to hand out another HK$5,000 in consumption vouchers to stimulate the economy.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong’s Holden Chow said that a recent survey showed that public confidence in their finances had fallen since the questionnaire was last done in June.
“Under this situation, we hope the government can distribute no less than HK$5,000 in electronic consumption vouchers,” Chow said. “This can stimulate the economy… and many industries can benefit.”
The Hong Kong government has given handouts every year since 2020 in a bid to ease economic woes brought on by Covid-19. In 2020, Hong Kong residents received HK$10,000 in the form of a transfer to their bank accounts. In the past two years, authorities distributed HK$5,000 and HK$10,000, respectively, to online payment accounts in an effort to encourage spending at local businesses.
Last year’s consumption vouchers were given to non-permanent residents for the first time. However, migrant domestic workers were not eligible, a move that activists called “heartless.”
The DAB’s appeal comes ahead of the upcoming budget speech, which will be delivered next month and outlines the city’s major spending plans for the coming year. The handouts of the past three years were all announced during the budget speech.
Earlier this month, pro-establishment party Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said it had urged the government to again distribute HK$10,000 in consumption vouchers.
Lawmaker Regina Ip, meanwhile, said on Monday that she did not think the city should give handouts this year.
“There was a limited effect on the economy when the HK$10,000 spending vouchers were given out again last year. Government resources are limited, so they should invest in the long-term development of Hong Kong instead,” she said, but added that “appropriate anti-poverty measures are still needed.”
Electronic vouchers ‘better than cash’
Last year, the government shrugged off suggestions from the public that the handouts should be delivered in the form of cash rather than consumption vouchers so that residents – particularly those with low incomes – could use them for expenses such as rent and bills.
Asked by a reporter at the Thursday press conference if the DAB believed that authorities should issue handouts in the form of cash, Chow said “past experience” showed that consumption vouchers were “better.”
“Consumption vouchers can ensure that the money is used in the local market, that [industries] such as sales, entertainment and food and beverage can benefit,” the lawmaker said.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan said on a radio show on Sunday that political parties had mixed opinions about whether the government should distribute handouts this year.
He said, however, that he was aware that low-income families were struggling in the current economic climate.
“Many people from grassroots [families] have not seen their income increase significantly, and they still face immense pressure in their finances and daily lives,” Chan added.