Mr President, Honourable Members and fellow citizens,
I move that the Appropriation Bill 2021 be read a second time.
2. Over the past year, we all have experienced a very different life. The epidemic has aggravated the economic recession. Face masks have become a daily necessity. We might have spent more time at home, but we have fewer opportunities to gather with our relatives and friends. The year 2020 has become our common memory.
3. The epidemic has made us realise that globalisation is not only a driving force for economic development, but also the key to victory in the fight against viruses and epidemics. No place on earth can stay aloof and remain unaffected. Only with concerted efforts can we successfully beat this pandemic of the century that has plagued the entire world.
4. Hong Kong went through tribulations in the past two years. International political tensions have dampened local exports and market sentiments; violent clashes have endangered the stability and safety of our society; and the epidemic has exerted additional pressure on the whole community and economy. In the past year, Hong Kong's economy recorded a negative growth of 6.1 per cent with the latest unemployment rate rising to seven per cent. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has committed a total of nearly $300 billion for supporting measures, with a view to stabilising the economy and relieving people's burden. However, this has also brought the fiscal deficit to a record high.
5. With the epidemic still lingering, our economy is yet to come out of recession. Our most urgent task is to contain the epidemic and press ahead with the vaccination programme, so that people and businesses can be back on track, and safe travelling between Hong Kong and the Mainland as well as the rest of the world can be resumed as soon as possible. I will, as always, provide the resources required to fully support the anti-epidemic work.
6. This year's Budget focuses on stabilising the economy and relieving people's burden. It aims to alleviate the hardship and pressure caused by the economic downturn and the epidemic through the introduction of counter-cyclical measures costing over $120 billion; and seeks to create a leverage effect to benefit our people, workers as well as enterprises. It is equally important that we should grasp the major directions and new trends of future development to strategically enhance our policy steering, support measures and resources allocation in key areas. This will not only bring new impetus to our industries, but also enable them to have a more dynamic, diverse and interactive development. I will go into more details in the ensuing paragraphs.
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