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Budget: Leaping Forward Steadily, Together We Bolster Prosperity under Our New Vision
     Unveiling his 2023-24 Budget today (February 22), the Financial Secretary, Mr Paul Chan, said the Government would sustain the impetus to economic recovery in moving towards high-quality development.
     "Our economy is at the early recovery stage, and members of the public as well as a large number of enterprises are still weighed down by tremendous pressure and require support," Mr Chan said.
     "Meanwhile, in the face of intense competition and imminent development needs, we have to fully and speedily press ahead with high-quality economic development, which requires forward planning and a front-loaded approach."
     The Financial Secretary said he expects Hong Kong's economic performance to pick up this year, after a 3.5 per cent contraction in 2022. He forecast economic growth of 3.5 to 5.5 per cent for 2023 as a whole.
     The underlying inflation rate and the headline inflation rate are expected to rise to 2.5 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively this year.
     "All in all, I forecast a consolidated deficit of $139.8 billion for 2022-23. Fiscal reserves are expected to be $817.3 billion by March 31, 2023," Mr Chan said.
     "I forecast a deficit of $54.4 billion for 2023-24. Fiscal reserves will also decrease to $762.9 billion, equivalent to 12 months of government expenditure."
     Mr Chan said with the exception of a forecast deficit in 2023-24, he expected the Consolidated Account to turn to a surplus in the coming four years and the Capital Account to turn to a surplus in 2027-28.
     "In analysing the Government's financial position, we should look at the entire economic cycle rather than focus on the short-term performance," the Financial Secretary said.
     "The Government's financial position has been volatile over the past two decades or so. Since Hong Kong’s return to our motherland, we have passed through three economic cycles of varying durations, with the most recent one being the longest, lasting for more than 10 years."
     The Government has implemented two rounds of the consumption voucher scheme in the past two years to boost consumer spending and stimulate the economy.
     "Having regard to the current economic situation, people's livelihood and the Government's financial position, I will issue electronic consumption vouchers again this year with a total value of $5,000 to each eligible Hong Kong permanent resident and new arrival aged 18 or above in two instalments," Mr Chan announced.
     The Financial Secretary also said the Government would introduce a new Capital Investment Entrant Scheme to further enrich the talent pool and attract more new capital to Hong Kong. Applicants would make an investment at a certain amount in the local asset market, excluding property, and then be able to live and work in Hong Kong.
     To promote high-quality development of Hong Kong, Mr Chan said the Government would strive to develop Hong Kong into an international green technology and financial centre.
     "Bringing together resources such as technological innovation, finance, commerce and manpower, a green economic model can drive economic transformation and sustainable development, generate demand and create strong impetus for growth. The whole industry cluster is growing rapidly, but the formation of a leading green technology and finance cluster has yet to be seen around the world," Mr Chan said.
     He proposed setting up a Green Technology and Finance Development Committee, inviting industry representatives from green technology, green finance and green standard certification, etc to assist in the formulation of an action agenda for promoting the development of Hong Kong into an international green technology and finance centre. 
     The Financial Secretary also revealed that the Government would organise an International GreenTech Week at the end of this year to bring together representatives, enterprises and investors from green technology industries around the world.
     The Government would also allocate $50 million to expedite the third generation Internet (Web3) ecosystem development.
     "Web3, currently in its start-up period, has huge potential. We must keep up with the times and seize this golden opportunity to spearhead innovation development," Mr Chan said.
     Mr Chan earmarked $3 billion to promote facilities that will further enhance basic research in frontier technology fields such as artificial intelligence and quantum technology and to better realise Hong Kong’s basic technology research capabilities in making breakthroughs in relevant fields.
     The current demand-side management measures for residential properties (commonly known as "harsh measures") would remain unchanged. To ease the burden on first time home buyers, the Financial Secretary said he will adjust the value bands of the ad valorem stamp duty payable for the sale and purchase or transfer of residential and non‑residential properties.
     This measure is expected to benefit 37 000 buyers and cost the Government approximately $1.9 billion per year.
     "With a clear direction ahead and specific goals in mind, Hong Kong is in a new stage of the journey towards vigorously pursuing our economic growth, and moving to high‑quality development and enhancing people’s quality of life," Mr Chan said.
     "I can say with certainty that Hong Kong will forge ahead in the new era, on a new stage and along a new journey!"
     For more details on the 2023-24 Budget, click here.
Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Issued at HKT 13:20
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