Hong Kong has released the first phase of this year’s consumption vouchers scheme, allowing residents to collect HK$3,000 in their digital payment accounts.

ifc shopping mall economy
IFC shopping mall in Central. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

From Sunday, those who elected to receive the sum on their Octopus cards can collect the money by tapping their cards at the Subsidy Collection Points in MTR stations, at convenience stores or via the Octopus app.

However, as Sunday is also when monthly public transport subsidies become available, anyone collecting their subsidy on Sunday will not also be able to collect the full HK$3,000 of their consumption voucher that day as both payouts would exceed the HK$3,000 limit of their Octopus card.

Those who chose the other five payment platforms – HSBC’s PayMe, Tap & Go, WeChat Pay HK, AlipayHK and BoC Pay – will receive their vouchers automatically.

This year’s payout scheme will see a total of HK$5,000 distributed to residents. The second phase of HK$2,000 will be handed out on July 16. Octopus users will receive it by this date at the earliest, provided they have already spent the initial HK$3,000.

Those who are not permanent residents, but who have come to the city to study or work, will see HK$1,500 in the first phase. They will receive a total of HK$2,500, or half of the payout. Domestic workers are exempt from the scheme.

Paul Chan
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan meeting the press on March 10, 2023 over details of the 2023 consumption voucher scheme. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The HK$5,000 distributed this year is half of the sum handed out the year before. Financial Secretary Paul Chan said during his annual budget address in February that HK$5,000 was “the best we can do,” keeping in mind the city’s fiscal reserves.

See also: HKFP Guide: How to claim Hong Kong’s 2023 HK$5,000 consumption vouchers

He added that the economy was still “fragile” due to being in the initial stages of post-pandemic recovery.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the government has offered handouts to ease associated economic woes and boost local spending.

retail shopping finance economy property market covid covid-19
Vacant shops in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Like last year, people who have left the city for good, or plan to, will not receive the handouts. The government said it would consider factors such as whether they have withdrawn the money from their pension accounts to decide their eligibility.

The exclusions, however, have been criticised as being overly broad. Last year, nearly 70 per cent of the 250,000 applicants who were initially rejected from the government’s consumption voucher scheme received the handouts after appealing the decision.

It is not known yet how many people have been excluded from this year’s scheme on the basis of emigration.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.