Use the 'vouchers to fuel tourism and retail'

Consumption vouchers should be limited to spending on local tourism, retail and catering sectors and as such authorities should continue to give out sweeteners in the budget to be announced on February 22 to ease the financial burden of Hongkongers, Ronick Chan Chun-ying said.

In a Legislative Council question yesterday, Chan, who represents the finance sector, said a majority of the people support the distribution of a consumption voucher for the third consecutive year even as some people expressed concern about the city's financial burden.

Hence, he suggested that part of the vouchers can only be used for local tourism, retail and catering.

He was among Legco members who raised the issue at the Legco meeting yesterday, with Tang Fei, who hails from the Election Committee constituency, also asking whether the government will continue to disburse them and consider regularizing the scheme, so that even if it is facing a deficit, people can still get some value out of it.

Acting financial services and the treasury secretary Joseph Chan Ho-lim said past vouchers - HK$5,000 in 2021 and HK$10,000 last year - had injected HK$95 billion buying power into the local market.

"The overall response of the community toward the scheme has been very positive," he said.

However, Chan insists, the SAR is facing a deficit, and authorities must take care in considering such a huge outlay.

"In deciding whether to launch similar initiatives again, the SAR must make prudent and holistic considerations, including social livelihood and economic conditions, the current financial situation, etc, to ensure that the measures are in the overall interest of Hong Kong," he added.

With the full border reopening on Monday, economic activities will resume faster, and Chan expects it to boost the export sector, transport and logistics, tourism, retail and catering industries.

However, he said the external environment will be challenging with uncertainties, so the government has to keep expenditure within the limits of revenue, and to commit resources as and when justified and needed.

Last month, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said he has yet to decide whether to disburse consumption vouchers this year amid mixed opinions.

He also said the upcoming budget faces a big challenge of large fiscal deficit of over HK$100 billion.