Chief Executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam said on Thursday that Hong Kong's economy now faces challenges both externally and locally, but its institutional strengths and core competitiveness remain intact.
"The situation we are facing now is obviously very different, more challenging and inevitably distressing. The challenges are complicated, both externally and locally," she said when addressing a joint business community luncheon at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.
Lam said the International Monetary Fund revised global economic growth rate forecast for this year to the lowest since 2009 and combining with the uncertainty of Brexit in Britain and tense geopolitical situation in the Middle East, there is downward pressure on the global and Hong Kong economic growth trends.
"While external uncertainties have brought up immense pressure, I would say that the local situation is much more worrying," she stressed, adding that the ongoing extensive conflicts and violence that have plagued Hong Kong for months have spread chaos and fear and seriously disrupted people's daily lives.
Rioters launch attacks and sabotages in an organized and planned way and they doxxed and beat people who have different opinions, committed vandalism and arson to public facilities and hurled petrol bombs at police, she said.
"Surveys showed that local business sentiment has turned extremely pessimistic in recent months. The impact is most obvious in some of the services industry."
Hong Kong's economy only expanded modestly by 0.5 percent in the first half of 2019, marking the weakest economic performance since the recession in 2009, Lam noted.
To tackle those challenges ahead, she said, the financial secretary has announced in three rounds in the past three months "a wide range of initiatives to support enterprises, safeguard jobs, stabilize the economy and strengthen livelihood."
She said the HKSAR government has rolled out a number of measures to help the small- and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, covering a broad range of sectors including logistics, retails, catering, tourism, construction, agriculture and fisheries. Subsidies will also be provided to badly-hit industries such as transportation and tourism.
"All the measures with a total sum of around 64 billion (Hong Kong) dollars are expected to provide a 2-percent impetus to our economy," she said.
Lam reiterated the emphasis on the determination of the HKSAR government to stop violence and its commitment to ensure the comprehensive and effective implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle in Hong Kong.
Despite the difficult external and domestic environment, Hong Kong retains its core strengths as an international financial center with an unrivalled geographical location, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, the free flow of information and a wide pool of professional talents, she said.
Lam appealed to leaders in the business community to stand up against violence and restore social order. Once that is achieved, the HKSAR government will work with relevant organizations to carry out promotional work and other measures to rebuild international confidence in Hong Kong, she said.