Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah may have disappointed those who had high expectations of getting generous handouts from his new Budget. But he did deliver a pleasant surprise to

the community as a whole by demonstrating a stronger inclination to take a more proactive approach in economic management.

In what many see as an apparent departure from the highly touted laissez-faire tradition of the city, the financial chief came up with a wealth of support measures for the economy in his latest Budget.

Small-and medium-sized enterprises, the mainstay of Hong Kong's economy - employing 50 percent of the private sector workforce - are set to be one of the major beneficiaries. They will benefit from a host of measures aimed at helping them tide over their liquidity needs, reduce their tax burden and operating costs, as well as enhance their productivity and long-term competitiveness.

The tourism industry, one of the four pillars of the economy, will also get a big boost. A raft of short-, medium- and long-term measures made available in the Budget are expected to help the sector not only weather its latest downturn by lowering operating costs, but also brighten its long-term prospects by enhancing the city's attractiveness and competitiveness as a tourist destination.

In recognition of the rising role of technology and innovation in economic development, Tsang also promised to encourage more private investment in research and development with various funding schemes.

To help diversify the city's economy, further support measures are being introduced in the new Budget to help foster startups, as well as the development of creative industries such as the fashion and film industries.

Taking a more proactive approach in economic management is not only congruous with the global trend that has seen many major economies in the world - including the United States, the European Union and Japan - unhesitatingly resort to pump-priming whenever needed. It is also imperative for the long-term well-being of Hong Kong society because many of the city's deep-seated social problems can be resolved only by expanding and diversifying the economy.

While attaching great significance to long-term economic development, Tsang did not overlook the need for short-term relief measures. An aggregate of HK$38.8 billion in relief measures - including reductions in salaries tax, government rent waivers and additional social service disbursals and subsidies - will be doled out in the upcoming fiscal year.

The financial chief may not have pleased every resident with his Budget. But he has demonstrated the good qualities of a technocrat by striking a balance in meeting the community's short-term needs for relief measures and the city's long-term needs for healthy economic development.

(HK Edition 02/25/2016 page5)

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