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Financial Secretary


Happy Spending  Let's Boost Our Digital Economy

Today, the Government distributed the second instalment of consumption vouchers. I went to the New Territories this morning, and spent some extra money with the voucher I just received. Apart from having a hearty breakfast, I also bought some yummy local snacks as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. I have had a really good time there, eating, shopping and chit-chatting with local residents.

Some 6.5 million people are eligible to receive the second instalment of consumption vouchers. Among them, around 136 000 have chosen to switch to another stored value facility (SVF) for receiving the vouchers, while around 220 000 are newly eligible registrants. They will start receiving their vouchers today.

I also bought some egg tarts with the voucher this morning and shared them with local residents.

It is worth noting that about one million people who use Octopus cards would not be able to collect the second instalment of voucher today, since they, after receiving the first instalment in April, have not yet reached the cumulative amount of "eligible spending" by 30 June. The Secretariat had sent reminders to these users earlier. Among them, about two-thirds have their cumulative "eligible spending" falling short of the required amount by less than $500, and as for most of the rest, the amount that falls short is less than $1,000. Those who fulfil the spending requirement by the end of this month will receive the second instalment on 16 August, and so forth, but the requirement has to be met by end-October at the latest. If one wishes to check the records relating to the cumulative amount of eligible spending in their Octopus cards, they may do so through the Octopus mobile app, the Octopus website, the Octopus hotline and the dedicated Octopus Service Points at MTR stations. People who receive consumption vouchers using other SVFs are not subject to the above requirement. All they need to do is to use their vouchers before the relevant expiry date.

The second-instalment consumption vouchers are disbursed today. This morning, I went to a district, spent some extra money with the voucher I just received and chit-chatted with the residents there.

The disbursement of the second instalment of consumption vouchers will inject around $13 billion of additional purchasing power into the retail and catering industries. While the Consumption Voucher Scheme has operated for three years, electronic payment in Hong Kong has become more prevalent with expanded coverage. A total of more than 13 million individual SVF accounts and over 220,000 corporate SVF accounts were opened during this period. According to statistics from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the total value of SVF transactions in the first quarter of 2023 was $138.5 billion, representing an increase of around 25% year-on-year. The number of transactions was over 1.8 billion, with an average transaction value at $77. Among them, physical point-of-sale transactions rose by more than 36%. All these show that electronic payment has already become more widely accepted as a mode of payment in our daily lives.

With the rapid advancement in electronic payment, it is now the golden opportunity to help businesses reduce cost, improve efficiency and increase revenue through accelerating digitalisation of business operations. This is also a good timing for start-ups to roll out innovative products or services. Last week, the Legislative Council approved a funding of more than $700 million to kick-start two measures announced in this year's Budget. The first is the $500 million Digital Transformation Support Pilot Programme, which will provide subsidies to small and medium enterprises in the two pilot sectors (food and beverage industry and retail industry) in applying ready-to-use basic digital solutions. The second is the $265 million Incubation Programme for Smart Living Start-ups which encourages and assists start-ups to develop more innovative solutions and services related to smart living, thereby enhancing the quality of life of our residents.

During my trip to Beijing, I made a detailed report to Mr Xia Baolong, the Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, on the latest economic and people's livelihood situation in Hong Kong.
While in Beijing, I called on the Director of the National Administration of Financial Regulation Mr Li Yunze.

Innovation and Technology (I&T) is an important engine for driving Hong Kong's economy forward, as well as an accelerator and catalyst for upgrading and restructuring traditional industries and enterprises. During my trip to Beijing last week, I visited a number of I&T enterprises. From the cutting-edge civil aerospace technology to intelligent autonomous driving, and to cloud-based solutions for large retail networks, new technologies and products can enable traditional corporate clients to enhance their business models; increase the range of their services or products and improve their quality so as to generate more revenue; and provide better service experience to customers. Hong Kong enterprises can learn much from their inspiring stories. These Mainland enterprises commonly said that Hong Kong's world-class professional services and financing platform, together with the convergence and free flow of international capital and talents as well as the presence of international companies and organisations, have made Hong Kong the best choice for them to develop and manage their international business.

During my trip to Beijing, I visited a leading cloud-based retail solution provider to learn how it employs technologies including big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence to help retailers undergo digital transformation.
I also visited the research and development centre of an enterprise which manufactures satellites and offers satellite Internet solutions, where I took the chance to take a look at new generation satellite products.

The focus of the Beijing trip was to call on relevant Central Authorities and financial regulators to report to them the latest economic and financial developments in Hong Kong, and to gain a better understanding of the Mainland's regulatory approach and developments in relevant areas. We also took the opportunity to discuss ways to promote Hong Kong's further integration into the country's overall development and alignment with national development strategies; and to reinforce and enhance Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre and as the international hub for other areas. Through the recent visits to Shanghai and Beijing in the past two weeks, we can feel more deeply our country's love and care as well as staunch support for Hong Kong; and understand the uniqueness of Hong Kong's advantages under the "one country, two systems" principle. Our country's economy has entered a new era and a new stage, and is marching towards high-quality development under a new development pattern. Hong Kong needs to play a more proactive role, and strive harder to make unique and irreplaceable contributions to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

July 16, 2023

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