Sat, Nov 29, 2003 - Page 10 News List

HK's economy is starting to show signs of life again

AP , HONG KONG

The Hong Kong economy grew by 4 percent in the July to September period, bouncing strongly out of a recession it slipped into during the SARS crisis, according to government figures released yesterday.

The quarterly growth in GDP, which compared with figures from the same period last year, was well ahead of the forecasts made by private economists.

On a quarter-to-quarter basis, Hong Kong's GDP advanced by 6.4 percent from July to September, compared with shrinkage of 3.7 percent in April to June, the government said.

Although Hong Kong still has plenty of economic woes, including unemployment at 8 percent and persistent deflation, they seem to be easing. Ordinary Hong Kongers are voicing more optimism about their financial future.

"More people are taking taxis now and they are more willing to spend money than during SARS," said trading firm owner Liu Kin-yan, 50. "I hope the economy will continue to improve next year."

Hong Kong was in crisis during the SARS outbreak, with most citizens wearing surgical masks around town and the World Health Organization warning travelers to stay away. But soon after the travel warning was lifted in May, Hong Kong began rebounding -- and it still is.

Liu said his main worry is public discontent with Hong Kong's government, led by unpopular Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董繼華).

"The government is doing a lousy job, and it can't instill confidence in the public," Liu said.

But Chinese tourists are returning to Hong Kong, leading to recovery for airlines, hotels and restaurants that took a beating during the SARS outbreak. Growth in exports is also helping.

Private economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires predicted a median 2.7 percent surge in growth for the third quarter.

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