Transcript of remarks of press conference on 2022 (Phase II) Consumption Voucher Scheme (with video)
The Financial Secretary, Mr Paul Chan, held a press conference this afternoon (June 13) to announce details of 2022 (Phase II) Consumption Voucher Scheme. The Government Chief Information Officer, Mr Victor Lam and the Head, Budget and Tax Policy Unit of the Financial Secretary’s Office, Ms Jessie Wong, also attended. Following is the transcript of remarks of the press conference.
Reporter: I’d also like to ask about the new criteria that you’re having, that you’re excluding those who are considered to have permanently departed Hong Kong, or having the intention to do so. Can you explain what are the reasons behind? And can you also talk about how you can tell, especially for people who have the intention to leave Hong Kong, how can you tell? So apart from the evidence, or the things that you’re looking on based on their Hong Kong ID, based on whether they’ve made claims on MPF withdrawal, what are the other evidence you’re looking for? Say for example, would you be looking at their social media or any other announcements that they made or other bank details? And also, you’re expanding the scheme to non-permanent residents who are eligible to become one. Again, what are the criteria and will you be looking at things like how long they’ve been in Hong Kong? And when will their, say for example, work contracts end? Things like that. Thank you.
Head, Budget and Tax Policy Unit of the Financial Secretary’s Office: As regards the new requirement of not having permanently departed from Hong Kong or having such an intention, in fact this is an improved requirement when compared with the requirement of residing in Hong Kong last year. When we examine whether a registrant can meet this requirement, we will take into account relevant factors. The major factors we will look into include (the following). Firstly, whether the registrant has been continuously absent from Hong Kong during a certain period, viz. starting from June 18, 2019, up to yesterday, i.e. June 12, 2022. If the registrant has been continuously absent during this specified period, which is nearly three years, we will consider him or her as having permanently left Hong Kong. Another factor we will take into account is whether the registrant has submitted a valid claim request for withdrawal of Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) or Occupational Retirement Scheme benefits before the age of 65, which is an early withdrawal according to the ordinance. If the registrant has applied for early withdrawal on the grounds of permanent departure from Hong Kong, and if he/she has submitted such a valid claim on or before today, we will consider him or her as having permanently departed from Hong Kong. It is because when he or she submitted this valid claim request, he or she needed to provide a statutory declaration that he or she is going to depart from Hong Kong permanently. So this is one of the factors that we will take into account. The third factor is that if the registrant is a permanent resident, we will see whether the permanent ID (card) that he or she is holding is a locally issued one or overseas issued one. If it is an overseas issued one, we will consider him or her as having permanently departed from Hong Kong.
Reporter: Apart from the one you listed……. (inaudible)
Head, Budget and Tax Policy Unit of the Financial Secretary’s Office: Really we can’t include all the factors. These are three main factors we will take into account. If the registrant is (discontent with) that we base on any of these factors to consider him or her as being not eligible, he or she can come forward and provide information to demonstrate whether he or she has permanently departed from Hong Kong. The third (should be fourth) factor that we include is whether there is any evidence or information that the Government believes the person has no intention of returning to Hong Kong in the foreseeable future. This factor is to provide the Government with the necessary flexibility to handle individual cases that we may come across.
Financial Secretary: On the inclusion of non-permanent residents in the scheme, there is no requirement on their minimum period of stay. Basically if they come to Hong Kong, they will be given a Hong Kong resident identity card. For some people, no matter how long they stay in Hong Kong, they will not be able to qualify as permanent residents. So for those people, we exclude them from the scheme. Otherwise, we will include them and give them half rate voucher (i.e. $5,000).
In the past few months, we have heard suggestions from the Legislative Council and different people and organisations in the community, suggesting to include non-permanent Hong Kong residents in the scheme. Having regard to the regulations of the Immigration Department, we think by drawing the line referencing to whether one can eventually be eligible to be a permanent resident is the legally safest criteria. We estimate the total number of people that will benefit from this relaxation would be about 300,000 to 350,000. The total expenditure would be around $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion which is, from a financial standpoint, affordable. And the idea of the Consumption Voucher Scheme is to try to stimulate local economic activities, and this is an initiative welcomed by the public in general. So we do think that given the affordability, given the overriding objective of stimulating the economy, it would be good to include additional beneficiaries so that we can share the joy of spending the consumption voucher together.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)