HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s leadership blamed months of pro-democracy protests Wednesday as the economy fell well short of predicted growth in 2014, and warned that “prolonged political bickering” could do more damage to investor confidence.
Hong Kong’s growth rate was just 2.3 per cent in 2014, down from 2.9 per cent the previous year and far slower than the three to four per cent pace predicted in last year’s budget speech.
Delivering his budget for 2015-16, finance secretary John Tsang said local industries had been damaged by more than two months of pro-democracy protests from September last year which brought parts of the city to a standstill.
“Prolonged political bickering is detrimental to public administration and the international image of Hong Kong as a stable, law-abiding and efficient city,” he said.
“It may even dampen investors’ confidence in Hong Kong. Such self-inflicted harm does not serve the city well.”
Tsang announced one-off measures to support sectors he said had been hit by the protests.
“The Occupy movement affected tourism, hotel, catering, retail and transport industries,” he said, with relief measures including the waiving of licence fees for restaurants, hotels and travel agents as well as waiving administrative fees for taxis and buses.
Tsang predicted “even more vehement” disputes in Hong Kong as the city grapples with how its next leader is chosen.
Beijing has promised that the chief executive will be voted in by the public in 2017 for the first time, but has said that candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee.
That decision sparked street blockades which brought parts of the city to a standstill for more than two months from September last year.