Business

HK pledges $1.7b in relief measures as it sinks into recession

HONG KONG Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam yesterday pledged HK$10 billion (S$1.7 billion) in relief measures to prop up the economy as it grapples with months of pro-democracy protests that have hurt business confidence in the city.

Hong Kong sank into recession for the first time in a decade in the third quarter as the sometimes violent protests forced businesses to shut and scared away travellers.

The proposed new spending brings the city's total stimulus to HK$35 billion since this summer, when protests escalated.

The measures target the elderly, unemployed and low-income residents, with plans to provide cash handouts among other benefits. The government said it also aims to increase statutory holidays from 12 to 17 days, subject to discussions with the business sector.

The protests flared in June over a now-withdrawn extradition Bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party. The demonstrations escalated into calls for greater democracy.

Beijing denies interfering while police say they have exercised restraint in the face of escalating violence.

On Monday, Mrs Lam joined other government officials at a regional financial forum and praised Hong Kong's resilience as a financial hub, saying its "strengths and resilience, just like our financial systems, have not been undermined despite (the fact) that we experienced considerable social unrest and challenges". - REUTERS

BUSINESS & FINANCE