Hong Kong budget to back low-interest loans but the jobless say ‘no thanks’

Published (HKT): 2021.02.24 06:00

Low-interest loans to be guaranteed by the Hong Kong government will offer little help to the jobless, say unionists and unemployed residents ahead of the announcement on Wednesday.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan is set to unveil the measure in his budget speech, according to media reports. It is estimated that 250,000 unemployed Hongkongers will benefit from the bank loans, capped at HK$80,000 (US$10,320) each.

The annual interest rate would be set at 1%, and those who repaid on time within the next five years would be able to recoup their interest payments, the South China Morning Post and Sing Tao Daily reported.

The government had set aside HK$10 billion for the proposal, the SCMP reported.

A former office worker, who gave her surname as Sung, said the planned measure would do little to ease her financial burden, which included monthly expenses of about HK$10,000 on rent and utilities.

“Does that government guarantee that the economy will recover in eight to nine months?” she said.

Sung lost her job last month and had since applied to various employers, none of which had contacted her. She was not optimistic about the market and would be reluctant to take out a loan while having no work, because that would only add to her mental strain.

Finance commentator Muddy Water said that although the interest rate was low, the capped amount would be enough for a person to get by for only about six months.

Mung Siu-tat, the leader of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, said the measure would only delay problems faced by the working class, rather than solving them. The government lacked the political will to help the city’s workers, he said.

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