forecast GDP growth of 3-4% in 2018

Hong Kong unveiled short-term relief measures and capital spending initiatives to sustain growth in an expansionary budget on Wednesday that carried hefty strategic spending to try to bolster the city’s innovation industries.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan, addressing the city’s lawmakers in his annual budget speech, also pledged to address livelihood challenges including a widening wealth gap, astronomical property prices. He also announced a 13.3 percent increase on annual spending on healthcare to help the over-burdened public health system.

Over HK$50 billion ($6.4 billion) would be earmarked for “investing in the future”, Chan said, to help innovative and creative industries include a start-up fund and investments in sectors such as fintech.

Hong Kong is widely seen to be lagging far behind the new industry push of rivals like the southern China tech hub of Shenzhen, and Singapore.

“Information and Technology is undoubtedly an economic driver in the new era. To shine in the fierce I&T race amidst keen competition, Hong Kong must optimise its resources by focusing on developing its areas of strength, namely biotechnology, artificial intelligence, smart city and financial technologies,” Chan said.

The city’s economy grew 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, Chan said, while full-year 2017 GDP came in slightly faster than government expectations at 3.8 percent — the fastest since 2011 — and up from 1.9 percent growth in 2016.

GDP this year is expected to grow 3-4 percent, Chan added.The fourth quarter grew a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent from the third.

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