Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po unveiled the budget on Wednesday, announcing a wide swathe of government handouts, including a HK$10,000 one-off payment to all Hong Kong residents aged 18 and above.
In his speech, Chan said: “The social incidents in the past months and the novel coronavirus epidemic have dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong’s economy.”
The cash payout will involve HK$71 billion in public money and benefit around 7 million Hongkongers.
He also announced the waiver of exam fees for 2021 DSE candidates.
Acknowledging the stress on Hongkongers after months-long protests and the epidemic, Chan promised mental health support resources to the Food and Health, Labour and Welfare, and Education bureaus, but did not give a number nor exactly what kind of support will be offered.
The government also focused on entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for young people. The Youth Development Fund under the Youth Development Commission has handed out subsidies for new businesses, while the government plans to offer 5,000 short-term internship places to students in the 2020-2021 year.
The budget also includes an increase in funding for the Hospital Authority with a special emphasis on manpower. A total of HK$75 billion will be provided to the authority in 2020-21, representing an increase of 35 per cent compared to the provision of HK$55.6 billion in 2017-18. Medical staff in public hospitals organised a five-day strike in early February, protesting against a lack of protective equipment and demanding increased border control measures with the mainland to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Chan ended his speech with a plea for unity, saying people can be hopeful about the city’s future, but adding that deep-seated conflicts in the community cannot be resolved overnight. “Hong Kong may have all sorts of shortcomings, but it is our home which allows diversity and freedom of development,” he said.