Scholar urges govt to hand out more spending vouchers

A business lecturer from Chinese University said on Monday that he believes the government is financially capable of handing out more spending vouchers, but it should consider tweaking the arrangement to encourage people to spend some of their own money too.

The current electronic voucher programme cost the government HK$36 billion, but Simon Lee, senior lecturer of the university’s Business School, said its effect in stimulating the economy will be limited, as this sum is no match for the city’s consumption figures before the 2019 social unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It also depends on whether people would spend more than the cash voucher. I am rather pessimistic. Some people would spend the money the government gives them, but would they spend more than that? Maybe not a lot. So the effect on boosting the economy would be limited,” said Lee.

“But I support rolling out one more round. Hong Kong is capable of doing so. As long as the pandemic is not over, we still need to boost the economy. The effect may be limited, but at least it can improve sentiment,” he said.

He said Hong Kong can take reference from Macau’s stimulus packages which give out electronic cash vouchers only after people spend a certain sum of money, and allows consumers to use the e-vouchers to pay for only part of a transaction.

For instance, an individual can receive five patacas in e-vouchers after spending 50 patacas, and can redeem 10 patacas when they spend at least 30 patacas in one transaction.

“When you spend some, and I spend some, we can make the pie bigger,” said Lee.

But Lee said if the government decides to introduce another round of vouchers, it should streamline the procedure and hand out the money more efficiently.