MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese): Thank you, President. In view of the stable epidemic situation in Hong Kong over the past six months and the Government’s announcement that it would strive for resumption of quarantine-free travel with the Mainland, many trades and industries, especially the service industry, hold a relatively optimistic attitude. Many restaurants have stocked up ingredients and hired temporary staff to prepare for the anticipated business growth during the Lunar New Year. However, with a sudden surge in the number of local infections of Omicron, the Government has to once again tighten its anti-epidemic measures, causing great losses to many trades and industries. Although the Chief Executive has announced the rolling of a new round of the Anti-epidemic Fund as a support measure, many of these small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”) have drawn loans under the Pre-approved Principal Payment Holiday Scheme (“the Scheme”) already. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (“HKMA”), together with the Banking Sector SME Lending Coordination Mechanism (“the Mechanism”), announced in September last year the repayment deferment for loans under the Scheme to April this year. Yesterday, HKMA announced a further 90-day repayment deferment for trade loans under the Scheme to April this year. Yet, HKMA said that it would consider ways to strike a balance between the risk management of banks and the need of supporting SMEs. However, in the event that the anti-epidemic measures are not relaxed on the 20th of this month, I believe that the businesses of SMEs will be greatly affected, rendering them unable to repay their loans in April as scheduled. As the Mechanism is currently planning for an exit of the Scheme, I would like to ask the Chief Executive: Will consideration be given to immediately lower the ratio of principal repayment for the exit and extend the deferment period of the Scheme?
CHIEF EXECUTIVE (in Cantonese): Thank you, President. Mr CHAN, I cannot give a reply today, but I will ask the Financial Secretary to consider your suggestion. In fact, as far as I know, the Financial Secretary is consulting Members on the 2022-2023 Budget. I believe that the Financial Secretary has listened to your views. Thank you.
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese): Alleviating SMEs’ pressure on loan repayments is of course part of it, but most important of all is to improve the entire business environment, which would in turn help SMEs and genuinely relieve their pressure. The Government’s disbursement of electronic consumption vouchers last year was able to give support to many trades and industries as well as boost the overall economic momentum and consumer sentiment. I would like to ask the Chief Executive: Will you consider instructing the Financial Secretary to propose again the disbursement of electronic consumption vouchers in the upcoming Budget?
CHIEF EXECUTIVE (in Cantonese): As I have mentioned, the Financial Secretary is currently seeking views on the upcoming Budget from various sectors, including Members of this Council. I believe that the Financial Secretary, having concluded the consultation and come up with a holistic plan and certain ideas, will have a discussion with me.