Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam vowed to continue strengthening ties with China, using an annual policy address to defend Beijing’s tightening grip over the financial hub and announce new steps to boost economic links with the mainland.
In a speech on Wednesday that was delayed in order for her to consult Communist Party leaders in Beijing, Lam said her administration’s aim was to restore confidence following another tumultuous year. She spoke against the backdrop of a new wave of virus infections, an economy in deep contraction, worsening wealth inequality and political turmoil.
“The primary objective of this policy address is to look at ways to get Hong Kong out of the impasse and to restore people’s confidence as soon as possible,” she said in the speech, which cited President Xi Jinping’s vision for Hong Kong at the outset.
Lam said Hong Kong’s economy can benefit “from its proximity to the mainland and the central government’s long-standing support under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.” The city’s “economic development will be given new impetus” by relations with China, she said.
A resurgence in virus cases prompted new restrictions Tuesday, with the government shutting down bars and nightclubs and limiting the number of people at banquets. The outbreak has already delayed a Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble in a blow to the economy and efforts to reopen the city.
The government has already allocated more than 310 billion Hong Kong dollars ($40 billion) in virus stimulus this year and its tight fiscal situation means there’s limited room for more spending, Lam has said.
The economy is set to contract 6.1% this year, with mixed signs recently of a recovery. Exports resumed their decline in October after a strong gain in the previous month. Bloomberg Economics’ high frequency dashboard shows subdued activity before the latest social distancing measures were imposed.
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