Thu, Mar 01, 2018 - Page 12 News List

Hong Kong unveils expansionary budget

Reuters, HONG KONG

Hong Kong yesterday unveiled short-term relief measures and capital spending initiatives to sustain growth in an expansionary budget that carried hefty strategic spending to try to bolster the territory’s innovative industries.

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan (陳茂波), addressing the territory’s lawmakers in his annual budget speech, also pledged to address livelihood challenges, including a widening wealth gap and astronomical property prices.

He also announced a 13.3 percent increase in annual spending on healthcare to help the overburdened public health system.

More than HK$50 billion (US$6.39 billion) would be earmarked for “investing in the future” to help innovative and creative industries, Chan said.

Hong Kong is widely seen as lagging far behind the new industry push of rivals such as southern Chinese technology hub Shenzhen and Singapore.

“Information and technology [I&T] is undoubtedly an economic driver in the new era. To shine in the fierce I&T race amidst keen competition, Hong Kong must optimize its resources by focusing on developing its areas of strength, namely biotechnology, artificial intelligence, ‘smart’ city and financial technologies,” Chan said.

The territory’s economy grew 3.4 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter last year, while full-year GDP came in slightly higher than government expectations at 3.8 percent — the highest since 2011 — and up from 1.9 percent growth in 2016, he said.

GDP this year is expected to grow between 3 and 4 percent, he said.

Six economists surveyed by Reuters expected fourth-quarter yesr-on-year growth of 3.2 percent, down from 3.6 percent in the third quarter.

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