HONG KONG (SCMP): Hong Kong’s struggling food and beverage businesses will get the first batch of relief funds under a scheme proposed by tycoon Li Ka-shing’s charity, with HK$200 million to be allocated to small and medium-sized firms by the end of November.
The Li Ka Shing Foundation said on Tuesday the money was part of a HK$1bil fund it announced earlier to help hard-hit SMEs in difficult times.
Under the scheme, each eligible restaurant is expected to get HK$60,000 before the end of next month.
Hong Kong has had to withstand the double whammy of a slowing global economy and the ongoing anti-government protests, which have rocked the city since June.
The foundation said it rolled out the proposal because it had seen the industry faced worsening difficulties and the situation was more serious than when the Severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak hit Hong Kong in 2003.
“To send funds to restaurants which need help as soon as possible and to overcome this difficult time, the foundation will adopt a ‘most trusted’ attitude in setting up the simplest approval process,” it said.
The foundation said it had held discussions with various sectors, including the government, and considered the scheme would be the most direct way to help relieve the industry’s burden.
It said business associations in the industry had given their backing to the proposal.
“The foundation will next try its best to help the retail sector. It is now actively holding discussions with representatives from the retail sector,” it said.
Commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah praised the foundation’s plan as timely, saying the government welcomed the community to join hands with officials in riding out the economic storm.
The scheme targeting the food and beverage sector came after the government rolled out HK$2bil (US$254mil) worth of relief measures last week to ease joblessness and support enterprises amid the ongoing crisis and the US-China trade war.
Under the foundation’s scheme, firms which employ fewer than 50 people and hold a business registration certificate, as well as a food and beverage licence, will be eligible for funds.
Applicants only need to submit details of their business registration, licences and a recent photo of the shop online.
More details will be unveiled online on November 8 – the starting date of the application period. The period ends on November 17.
He noted the approval process for government relief funds was more complicated while the foundation’s procedures were direct and simple.
Wong said sales at local restaurants had dropped nearly 40 per cent so far in October compared with the same period last month, and almost 300 eateries had closed down since June.
Wong said the number of restaurants shutting down was still not as serious as during the Sars outbreak in 2003, when about 1,000 dining places closed.
“But the impact felt by businesses is worse than in the Sars period,” he said.
On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor blamed protesters for the city’s economic woes, saying the local economy had entered a technical recession – or two consecutive quarters of negative growth – and would likely see negative full-year growth.
She said the city could miss the government’s revised growth forecast of anywhere between 0 and 1 per cent this year, down from the 3 per cent growth seen last year. Third-quarter figures for Hong Kong’s economy are expected on Thursday. – South China Morning Post
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