People protest against government near legislative council in Hong Kong on Wednesday. AFP
Hong Kong's government said on Wednesday it will give a HK$10,000 ($1,280) handout to every permanent resident in a bid to jump-start an economy in recession after months of protests and hit further by the coronavirus outbreak.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan unveiled the cash gift in the annual budget, committing a colossal HK$120 billion to help alleviate the worst economic downturn the international financial hub has faced in a decade.
Hong Kong boasts significant fiscal reserves of more than HK$1 trillion built up over the boom years, a stockpile that the government is now tapping into.
The cash handout to around seven million permanent residents will cost HK$71 billion, but officials hope consumers will plough much of the money back into local businesses.
"Making good use of fiscal reserves to support enterprises and relieve people's hardship is certainly in line with our people's expectations," he said, adding the cash handout was for permanent residents aged 18 or above, including those residing overseas.
Chan said the stimulus and lower revenues would push government coffers into the red by a record HK$139.1 billion in the coming fiscal year, the first deficit in 15 years.
Hong Kong's economy is reeling from the US-China trade war, months of pro-democracy protests last year and now the coronavirus: a triple whammy Chan described as "exceptionally austere".
Other measures announced in the budget included profits and salary tax breaks, as well as low-interest loans for businesses struggling to pay staff wages.
The tourist, restaurant and retail sectors have been hit especially hard with bankruptcies soaring and traditionally low unemployment rising.
"Hong Kong's economy is facing enormous challenges this year," Chan said, predicting a range of 0.5 per cent growth to a 1.5 per cent contraction this year.
Hong Kong stock exchange shares fell more than 3% on Thursday as investors raised concerns about the political and regulatory risks involved in its $39 billion approach to take over London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) invited traders from the UAE and the region to participate their upcoming international trade fairs on a variety of industries.
Hong Kong authorities have taken aggressive measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the Asian financial and airline hub, but Saturday’s move is the first lockdown in the Chinese-ruled city.
The Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, derailed and fell on the opposite track, with many people still trapped, the reports said.
Sheikh Mohammed added in a tweet on Twitter: "We found its executive director at the service counters, receiving customers, speeding up procedures, and contributing to clearing transactions. The secret shopper assured us that providing the service did not exceed five minutes."
The first lady arrived in Cairo from Amman, where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein. She is travelling to Morocco on Saturday before heading to Portugal, the final stop of her tour, on Monday.