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Budget Address 2021: Effects of unemployment loan in doubt

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Zhu Zijin Cora 朱子槿、Yoyo Kwok Chiu TungEdited by: Zhou Yichen Gloria 周奕辰
  • 2021-02-24

Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said on Wednesday unemployed citizens can apply for government-backed low interest personal loans of up to HK$80,000 but citizens cast doubt on its effectiveness because some fear that they cannot repay the loan. The one-off loan at an interest rate of 1% per annum is part of the government’s relief measures announced by the Financial Secretary in his budget speech amid the city’s unemployment rate hitting a 17-year high of  7% in January, with more than 250,000 people unemployed. “The labour market deteriorated sharply,” said Mr Chan in the speech. “This prolonged economic downturn has plunged some people into financial difficulties.” As an extra financing option for the unemployed, eligible individuals can pay interest only in the first year, and then repay the principal plus interest within the next five years. People who repay on time will get the interest back at the end. “I think the budget is reasonable and fair, especially in giving low interest rate loans to the unemployed,” said Teresa Tong, 65, former Partner at Ernst & Young Hong Kong. “ It’s a new idea for this year and it’s pretty innovative. It’s the right way to support the poor and unemployed rather than just offer them money.” “But some people are reluctant to borrow from the government”, said Kwok Man-ho, district councillor Tin Shui Wai. He has received comments from about a dozen of residents and none of them planned to apply for the loan as they were not sure if they were able to repay later. Besides, Mr Kwok also said the amount of the loan was too small, especially for people who were not living in public housing. “Since the unemployed have no idea when they can find jobs, most of them prefer direct unemployment grants …