Next round of govt relief plan flawed: CUHK expert - RTHK
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Next round of govt relief plan flawed: CUHK expert

2020-09-21 HKT 12:28
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  • Simon Lee says the Financial Secretary and the Inland Revenue Department should disperse relief  and not the CE and the Labour and Welfare Bureau. Photo: RTHK
    Simon Lee says the Financial Secretary and the Inland Revenue Department should disperse relief and not the CE and the Labour and Welfare Bureau. Photo: RTHK
A business expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) said on Monday that the third round of anti-epidemic relief funding will be of little help to society, due to the reduced amount earmarked and lack of proper planning by the government.

Simon Lee, a senior lecturer at the university's business school, said that the third round of Covid-19 relief worth more than HK$24 billion is a significant drop from the previous rounds which were HK$30 billion and HK$137.5 billion respectively.

Lee also questioned why the Chief Executive's Office and the Labour and Welfare Bureau were responsible for the Employment Subsidy Scheme (ESS) when the Financial Secretary and the Inland Revenue Department should be the ones administering the scheme.

He said the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau has the necessary expertise in identifying which businesses are suitable for government support.

"They are experts in this field, therefore you see a lot of mistakes in the ESS, in particular there are many companies that shouldn't receive funding."

He said the fact that it has fallen under the purview of the CE and Labour and Welfare Bureau may be why the government is not giving money to the people and businesses who need it the most.

Speaking to an RTHK radio programme, he warned that because the third wave of coronavirus infections has caused a halt in economic activities, it's not clear how long it will take for the economy to recover, and even relying on government support for a long time is not sustainable.

Lee said that for the next round of relief under the ESS, the government should introduce financial assistance for those who are unemployed. But that should have a limit, like for six months.

The time limit was needed as there has been some misunderstanding among the public that money for the unemployed would mean giving people money to "do nothing", he said.

The lecturer said the government should not offer subsidies to businesses that have been doing well amid the pandemic, like supermarkets and some retailers, saying that public funds should be better used as the city is expected to record a budget deficit of about HK$300 billion this financial year.