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In reply to a question in the Legislative Council, Hong Kong's Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So has confirmed that the Government will provide continued support for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The question used last month's Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey 2013, which indicated that the confidence of Hong Kong's SMEs in their own businesses fell sharply from the previous year. It was suggested that the Government should follow up the problems reflected in the survey, assess any operational difficulties currently being experienced by SMEs, and decide whether it should provide SMEs with profits tax concessions or subsidies.
So replied that the Government has been closely monitoring the operating situation of local enterprises, and that the number of Hong Kong small businesses that were optimistic about their own business prospects in the survey was still more than those who were pessimistic.
He also commented that "the Government has been providing timely and adequate support for SMEs. Alongside Hong Kong's swift economic recovery after the global financial crisis, the numbers of SMEs and persons engaged in SMEs are higher than their pre-crisis levels. In June 2013, the numbers of SMEs and persons engaged in SMEs increased by 11 percent and 5 percent respectively from June 2007."
At present, the Census and Statistics Department conducts a monthly exercise on a sample panel of around 400 SMEs, to gain a better understanding of their business operation, including business receipts and the number of employees. Although the increase in local business operating costs (including rent and labor costs) over the past few years has put some pressure on the business environment of local enterprises, particularly the SMEs, the broadly stable consumption market has partly cushioned the impact of the rising costs.
In addition, So noted that, following the Government's latest round of demand-side property price management measures, involving further stamp duty hikes, since late February 2013, the uptrend in rentals for office space and retail shop space has moderated.
He stressed that the Government has been providing many types of support for SMEs. The SME Loan Guarantee Scheme (SGS) provides 50 percent loan guarantees for eligible SMEs to assist them in obtaining loans, including for the rental of office and retail shop space which is considered to be necessary operating business cost.
However, he also expressed the Government's opinion that providing profits tax concessions to specific enterprises would deviate from the fairness principle of Hong Kong's tax system. He pointed out that, in any case, in the 2011-12 fiscal year, almost 90 percent of registered corporations did not need not pay any tax. Only 94,900 corporations, accounting for 11 percent of registered corporations, paid profits tax.
He concluded that the Government "will continue to closely monitor the changes in the economic situation and the needs of our enterprises and review our support measures for SMEs from time to time in order to provide them with timely and adequate support."
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