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LCQ21: Consumption Voucher Scheme
     Following is a question by the Hon Elizabeth Quat and a written reply by the Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Mr Christopher Hui, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):
     The Government implemented the Consumption Voucher Scheme (the Scheme) last year and this year to elevate the consumer sentiment of members of the public and enable the funding under the consumption vouchers to circulate in the local economy, thereby boosting local consumption to the fullest extent and accelerating economic recovery, as well as encouraging more local merchants and members of the public to use electronic payment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has compiled statistics on the total amount of retail spending involving the use of consumption vouchers for payment since the implementation of the Scheme; whether it has assessed the stimulus effect of the Scheme on the overall economy of Hong Kong (including the Gross Domestic Product, the unemployment rate, the price level, etc.); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it has compiled statistics on (i) the number of cases in which the Scheme was abused by persons suspected of not fulfilling the eligibility criteria of the Scheme (mainly persons who have permanently departed or have the intention to permanently depart from Hong Kong), and (ii) the number of cases in which the applications were rejected (with a breakdown by reason of rejection), since the implementation of the Scheme; if not, whether the Government has plans to compile such statistics; and
(3) of the number of complaints about consumption vouchers received by the Government since the implementation of the Scheme; the measures in place to address the problems encountered by members of the public in using consumption vouchers, including technical difficulties, merchants raising prices instantly, as well as complaints relating to the "buy now, pay later" payment service platforms?
     The Financial Secretary announced the implementation of two rounds of the Consumption Voucher Scheme (CVS) through the 2021-22 and 2022-23 Budgets. In the first round (2021 CVS), each eligible person was disbursed with consumption vouchers of a total value of $5,000 in instalments starting from August 1 last year.
     In the second round (2022 CVS), each eligible person is disbursed with electronic consumption vouchers of a total value of $10,000 in two phases. In order to relieve the economic burden of people due to the fifth wave of the epidemic, the Government has firstly made use of the registration information collected last year to disburse $5,000 consumption vouchers under Phase I to people who successfully registered for the 2021 CVS starting from April 7 this year. With the announcement of details of Phase II including the enhanced eligibility criteria on June 13, consumption vouchers under Phase II have been disbursed to eligible persons in instalments since August 7.
     My reply to the various parts of the question raised by Hon Elizabeth Quat is as follows:
(1) The 2021 CVS and the 2022 CVS have so far injected around $31.5 billion and over $60 billion of purchasing power respectively into the local consumption market. Prior to the launch of the CVS, the Government roughly estimated that the 2021 CVS would have a stimulus effect equivalent to 0.7 percentage point of the Gross Domestic Product on the economy, and the stimulus effect of 2022 CVS would be 1.2 percentage point. According to the statistics compiled by the Census and Statistics Department, private consumption expenditure expanded by 5.9 per cent year-on-year in real terms in the second half of 2021. Notwithstanding the impact of tightened financial conditions, private consumption expenditure managed to stay virtually unchanged from a year earlier in the second and third quarters of 2022, and increased by 8.0 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively on a seasonally adjusted quarter-to-quarter basis. These show that consumption vouchers can render support to local consumer sentiment, stimulate demand and maintain market confidence.
     Consumption vouchers have brought a positive impact on the overall local economy. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined progressively from a high of 7.2 per cent in early 2021 to 4.0 per cent at year end. Entering 2022, with the labour market under immense pressure amid the fifth wave of the epidemic, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 5.4 per cent between February and April. With the subsequent revival of domestic economic activities, the disbursement of consumption vouchers by the Government brought support to private consumption, and the unemployment rate went down gradually to 3.8 per cent between August and October. The overall consumer price inflation remained moderate. The underlying composite consumer price inflation rates in the second half of 2021 and between January and October 2022 stood at 1.2 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.
(2) As at end-November this year, excluding the cases ruled successful upon review, about 80 000 people who had made statutory declarations and submitted valid claim requests for early withdrawal of their Mandatory Provident Fund or benefits under occupational retirement schemes on the grounds of "permanent departure from Hong Kong" were ultimately ruled unsuccessful for not being able to meet the eligibility criteria under Phase II of the 2022 CVS. Other reasons for unsuccessful registration in the two rounds of the CVS are tabulated as follows:
Types of ineligibility                                        CVS
2021 and 2022 (Phase I) 2022 (Phase II)
1. Age requirement About 3 000 persons About 3 000 persons
2. Residency status
(including valid identity proof) requirement
About 90 000 persons About 7 000 persons
3. Other requirements About 2 000 persons About 3 000 persons
Total: About 95 000 persons About 13 000 persons
(3) Since the launch of the CVS last year, we have received via the hotline a total of some 1 690 complaints in the two rounds of the CVS, about 1 580 of which (approximately 93 per cent) were received during the early stage of implementation of 2021 CVS (i.e. between June and September 2021). The complaints mainly involved eligibility criteria, registration procedures and progress, as well as disbursement and usage of consumption vouchers. Nevertheless, with the public getting more and more used to the operation of the CVS and their wider use of electronic payment, the CVS has been running smoothly.
     The Government has been disseminating information on the CVS to the public through various channels, including television, radio, newspapers, thematic website and social media. We have also been keeping in close contact with the stored value facility (SVF) operators on matters of the CVS, and are closely monitoring the disbursement and usage of consumption vouchers. In addition to the hotline set up by the Government, the SVF operators concerned have set up enquiry hotlines to help the public solve problems relating to the operation of the SVFs or usage of consumption vouchers.
Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Issued at HKT 14:15
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