Hong Kong’s economy hit by protests, says Finance Secretary

Counter moves: Chan says the Hong Kong government will consider countermeasures to stabilise the economy. He, however, does not provide details. — Bloomberg

HONG KONG: Social unrest gripping Hong Kong has affected the city’s economy and businesses, and the unemployment rate is likely to rise from current levels, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in a blog post.

In the Chinese-language post on his website, Chan said many local retail and catering businesses had experienced a “sharp decline” in business, and he warned that the longer the historic protests go on, the more pressure they will pile on small and medium enterprises.

“For foreign tourists and enterprises, the unrest in Hong Kong dampens their appetite for travelling and investment,” Chan said in translated comments.

If the movement lasts, he said, “everyone’s employment and livelihood will be at stake”.

The Hong Kong government will consider countermeasures to stabilise the economy, Chan said, without providing details.

The overall economic downturn that Hong Kong is experiencing, including because of external factors such as the US-China trade war and frictions in the technology sector, will “inevitably be transmitted to the job market”. The jobless rate will likely rise from its current 20-year low of 2.8%, Chan wrote. The import and export, wholesale and construction industries are among the most affected and their situations have begun to deteriorate, he said.

Over the past eight weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have demonstrated against proposed legislation that would ease extraditions to mainland China. While the planned law has been suspended, the movement has grown to include calls for Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s resignation, causing a political crisis in the city.

Hong Kong is set to report preliminary second-quarter gross domestic product on July 31. The government will also conduct an interim review of the year’s economic growth forecast to reflect possible changes in the coming months more accurately, Chan said.

There have been signs this month that the mass demonstrations are starting to take a toll on the financial hub’s economy as big-spending travelers stay away. Some global luxury retailers said the unrest weighed on sales due to store closures and fewer tourists. — Bloomberg

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