Party bosses at odds over consumption vouchers

The heads of two major political parties do not see eye-to-eye as to whether the government should push ahead with another round of the consumption voucher scheme to help businesses hit by the pandemic.

After meeting with Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Monday ahead of the upcoming budget, Liberal Party chairman and catering sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung said Chan should consider extending the scheme to help restaurants and retailers.

Cheung said the amount each person receives should be more than HK$5,000. “The sooner we get it, the more it will help businesses, retail and restaurants,” he said.

But New People’s Party chairwoman and lawmaker Regina Ip disagrees.

Ip said another round of consumption vouchers is unnecessary, saying the SAR should save fiscal reserves for future emergency use.

And she called on the financial secretary to offer more help to self-employed people in next month’s budget.

“The anti-epidemic fund… the amount has been basically very limited. But for many self-employed persons like singers, dancers, personal trainers and people with no MPF accounts who are affected by the current shutdown, the government should try and reach out to these self-employed people and give them HK$7,500,” Ip said.

In the latest round of anti-epidemic funding announced by the government last week, freelancers in the arts and culture sector are entitled to HK$5,000 each.

Cheung also called on the government to relax the evening dine-in restrictions, projecting a HK$10 billion loss for the trade over the ban that will last at least until February 3.

“Obviously the HK$1.7 billion subsidy coming to us is going to help, but it’s like a drop in the bucket. Obviously, the sooner the government can come out and say [the evening dine-in ban] will be relaxed, the better it is for businesses to sustain their business. Or else we will be seeing a lot of closures after Chinese New Year,” he said.

The financial secretary will deliver his next budget on February 23.