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HK announces $10k cash bonanza to adult permanent residents

27 February 2020

by The SUN

Financial Secretary Paul Chan unveils the budget in  Legco

The Hong Kong government has announced a one-time cash payout of $10,000 to each permanent resident aged 18 years old and above, as part of measures  aimed at helping ease the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus contagion and last year's massive protests.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan announced the cash windfall and other relief measures in his budget speech today, Feb. 26, at the Legislative Council.

Among those who will benefit from the relief measure are about 18,000 Filipino permanent residents in Hong Kong.
According to Consul General Raly Tejada, Immigration figures supplied to him show there are 17,602 Filipino permanent residents “or those with unconditional stay” in Hong Kong now. However, their age breakdown is not indicated, so it is not clear how many could actually receive the payout.

Not included in the figure are the nearly 220,000 Filipino domestic workers who make up the bulk of the Filipino population in Hong Kong, as well as skilled or contract workers, students and other residents who have not yet attained the required seven-year stay.
Migrant workers who make up more than 90% of the Filipino population in HK, are not entitled to the $10k  handout
The Filipino beneficiaries are just a tiny fraction of Hong Kong’s more than 7 million residents, for which $71 billion of the new $120 billion budget has been set aside.

In his speech, Chan also announced a wide range of relief measures to help both individuals and companies reeling from the twin impact of the protests and the spread of the coronavirus.
These include:

* A 100% cut in salaries tax and tax under personal assessment for 2019-20, subject to a $20,000 ceiling. This will benefit 1.95 million taxpayers but cut government revenue by $18.8 billion;

* Waiving four quarters of rates for residential properties in 2020-21, subject to a ceiling of $1,500 per quarter for each rateable property. This would involve about 2.93 million domestic properties and reduce government revenue by $13.3 billion;

* Providing extra allowance to eligible social security recipients totaling $4.225 billion;
* Paying a month’s rent for low-income tenants of public rental units. Cost: $1.83 billion;

* Paying the examination fees for school candidates sitting for the 2021 Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination. Cost: about $150 million.
  Chan also set aside $18.3 billion for measures to safeguard jobs and support enterprises.
Education subsidy also rates high in the budget

These include: extending low-interest loans of up to $2 million to small businesses, cutting profits tax by up to 100%, subject to a $20,000 cap; providing subsidy for 75% of eligible non-domestic households’ electricity and water bills for an extra four months; and setting aside $700 million to boost tourism.

The government will also provide a six-month rental subsidy to local recycling enterprises and reduce rental by 50%  for another six months for eligible tenants of government properties, government land and the EcoPark.

The budget also allocates about $2.5 billion more to the Employees Retraining Board to increase the maximum amount of monthly allowance for trainees.

Stimulating the jobs market has been given priority amid reports of many businesses closing down or drastically reducing staff.

A recent report said 50,000 workers have already lost their jobs as the construction industry grinds to a halt, with 70,000 others getting drastic pay cuts.

Businesses badly hit by the contagion will also get relief
Chan said the government was making optimal use of its fiscal reserves that are expected to reach $1.13 trillion by Mar 31 for the “massive counter-cyclical measures”.

Describing the past year and the present, Chan said “2019 was an unsettling year fraught with obstacles. Entering 2020, the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has dealt a severe blow to economic activities and sentiment in Hong Kong.”

Chan said Hong Kong’s economy contracted by 1.2% in 2019, adding he expects the negative growth rate to continue this year.

 “Therefore, I have decided to implement counter-cyclical measures of a massive scale involving above $120 billion so as to meet the public’s expectations as far as possible,” Chan said.

He forecast a budget deficit of about $37.8 billion for the current financial year, dipping to about $139.1 billion in 2020-21, as the government helps the community and local enterprises ride out their difficulties.

The budget was immediately slammed by Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung, who said the police force emerged as the “biggest winner” because it will be getting a 25 percent increase in its allocation compared to last year.

Cheung said the “losers” were the new immigrants, many of them on low income, because they will not get the $10,000 handout.

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