Providing support for hard-hit industries affected by the epidemic
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
President, the latest unemployment rate released by the Government is 6%, returning to the level at the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic outbreak. Nevertheless, as the Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr LAW Chi-kwong has point out, the business receipts of many labour-intensive industries are still far below the pre-epidemic level. The labour market will take a longer time to make a significant recovery.
The motion on “Providing support for hard-hit industries affected by the epidemic” proposed by Mr YIU Si-wing today seeks to provide additional support measures for these industries, so that the industries and their practitioners can have a longer period of respite under the epidemic and wait for the opportunity to start afresh.
The share of the total value added of the four traditional pillar industries, namely financial services, tourism, trading and logistics, and professional and producer services, amounted to 56.4% of the Gross Domestic Product in 2019, employing 1.74 million people. As we all know, one of the pillar industries, the tourism industry, is suffering greatly from the epidemic, including the cross-boundary passenger service sector mentioned in Mr Frankie YICK’s amendment. If that industry fails to regain its momentum due to the severe setback, one of the four pillars will be missing, thus Hong Kong’s economy will rely even more heavily on the financial, professional and industrial and commercial industries in the future. This will make Hong Kong’s industries even more homogenous, which is by no means a good thing.
After the outbreak of the epidemic, the Government has introduced various relief measures to help industries in difficulties. Take the tourism and catering industries as an example. The Government provided the tourism industry with a total commitment of nearly $2.6 billion through three rounds of the Anti-epidemic Fund and other schemes. Similarly, the catering industry has also received an accumulated subsidy of $11.6 billion. It can be seen that the Government has extended timely support to certain industries.
With the easing of the epidemic recently, a latest survey indicated that the unemployment rates in most major industries have somewhat declined. Among them, the combined unemployment rate of the retail, accommodation and food services sectors registered the biggest drop of 0.5 %, although still standing high at 9.4%. Nevertheless, the spread of the coronavirus variants seems to outrun the global vaccination rate. The streak of zero local infections has just ended. It is still uncertain whether a fifth wave of epidemic will break out. If it happens, its impacts on various industries cannot be ignored. I agree with the proposal in the motion to define hard-hit industries with objective statistics.
President, the S&P Global Market Intelligence uses the probability of default model to assess the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on various industries. According to the latest statistics released in March this year, the top five industries most impacted by the epidemic are already different from those in September last year. The latest top five hard-hit industries are airlines, oil and gas drilling, apparel retail, home furnishing retail and casino and gaming. The restaurants and auto parts and equipment industries have dropped out of the top five.
It is evident that hard-hit industries do change with the different stages of the epidemic. As the industrial structure and recovery pace vary in different places, the situation in other countries may not be identical to that in Hong Kong. The Government should proactively collect statistics for objective analysis to identify the hard-hit industries in Hong Kong, so as to offer targeted support to those most in need.
In fact, the most effective way for Hong Kong to resume normal economic activities is to get 70% of the local population vaccinated, so as to achieve herd immunity as mentioned by experts. Unfortunately, the Internet is flooded with rumours about the vaccines which aroused concerns about the after-effects of vaccination. As a result, we had to encourage vaccination with a lucky draw.
The current vaccination rate in Hong Kong is not satisfactory. I personally agree that the Government should provide more financial support for these hard-hit industries, but practitioners of the hard-hit industries should take the lead in getting vaccinated so that cross-border travel can be resumed as soon as possible and various industries can regain vitality expeditiously. This is actually the best relief for the hard-hit industries.
President, I support the original motion of Mr YIU Si-wing and the amendment proposed by Mr Frankie YICK. Thank you.