Unemployed residents can get loans capped at HK$80,000 Hong Kong dollars ($10,300) in a program that postpones payments for the first year and charges 1% interest. The measures come after Hong Kong last week reported a 7% jobless rate between November and January, the highest since April 2004.
In his speech, Paul Chan forecast the economy is set to grow 3.5% to 5.5% this year, compared to the economic contraction of 6.1% in 2020.
The budget for 2021 “aims to alleviate the hardship and pressure caused by the economic downturn and the epidemic," Chan said.
He said that Hong Kong’s fiscal deficit is at a record high after the government last year spent HK$300 billion Hong Kong dollars ($38.7 billion) on supporting measures, including a cash handout to residents and wage subsidies for businesses.
He also said that mainland China’s economy was “fundamentally sound" despite uncertainties from the epidemic and in US-China relations. Hong Kong, as a semi-autonomous Chinese city, will benefit from this.