英文

Editorial : Deep in recession, hard path ahead

【明報專訊】HONG KONG'S economy is mired in recession amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The gross domestic product (GDP) has suffered its worst decline on record, shrinking by 8.9% year on year in the first quarter according to the government's estimates. From consumption, to investments, to exports, the economy has ground to a halt across the board. Exports of services have even slumped by nearly 40%, a collapse that reflects the heavy toll on the city's inbound tourism. The GDP is a lagging indicator. The crux of the matter is when the recession will bottom out and whether the economy will rebound or continue to languish at a low level. As the pandemic has eased in Hong Kong in recent days, it is possible that the anti-pandemic measures may be relaxed later, thus giving a boost to the consumer market. However, the recovery of the economy also depends on how the pandemic goes and the political-economic situation outside Hong Kong as well as the local political and social situation. As it is unlikely that the pandemic-stricken Western countries will see a V-shaped economic rebound, it is difficult for Hong Kong exports to recover in the short term. The escalation of Sino-US confrontation and the looming recurrence of local political storms also cast a shadow over the path to recovery. A big question mark remains as to whether the Hong Kong economy can come out of the bottom in the second half of this year.

Hong Kong's economy has been hit by the impacts of the Sino-US trade war, the anti-extradition storm and the pandemic in recent months. These impacts have come one after another with increasing devastation. Consumption, investments, exports and public expenditure are the four main components of the GDP. The city's economy began to decline in the middle of last year. The continued weakness of domestic and external demands has led to an across-the-board fall in consumption, investments and exports. Even though the government has kept increasing its spending to "support the economy and safeguard jobs", such efforts have been unable to reverse the situation. The city's unemployment rate in March reached 4.2%, the highest in ten years. The GDP has contracted for three quarters in a row and the decline has been larger and larger. The government has announced that the GDP of the first quarter of this year dipped by 8.9% year on year and shrank by 5.3% quarter on quarter. Both figures are the biggest drop on record, even worse than those during the 1998 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial tsunami.

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Hong Kong was reported at the end of January. The pandemic in Hong Kong reached its peak at the beginning of April. The city's second wave of infections, caused by the outbreaks in Europe and America, has taken a heavier toll on its economy than the first wave. Such impact is only partly revealed in the GDP figures of the first quarter. In order to deal with the second wave of outbreaks, the authorities rolled out a series of measures at the end of March. They included tightening quarantine requirements for inbound travellers, mandating social distancing, regulating restaurants, ordering suspension of businesses for high-risk venues and so forth. Although these anti-pandemic measures have proved to be largely effective, they have also come at huge social costs. To have a glimpse of the severity of the impact of those measures on the economy and people's livelihood, we have to wait for the GDP figures of the second quarter. It will be very lucky for Hong Kong if it turns out that the GDP contraction slows down in the second quarter.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po describes the city's economy as "deep in recession" right now. A closer look at the breakdown of the first quarter's GDP reveals something shocking and dreadful. Chan's expectation that Hong Kong will come out of the bottom gradually towards the end of this year if the global pandemic situation improves is, to a certain extent, only wishful thinking. The global economy is facing a reshuffle after the pandemic. Great changes may come up in areas from supply chains to the interconnectivity of countries. Similarly, there might be many changes in the local political and social landscape. In the face of huge uncertainty in Hong Kong's economy in the second half of the year, perhaps one can only pray for good luck.

明報社評2020.05.05:深度衰退內外交困 走出谷底前路艱難

疫下香港經濟深度衰退,首季本地生產總值(GDP)估計按年下跌8.9%,表現歷來最差,消費、投資和出口全面「死火」,服務輸出下跌近四成,更是塌方式崩潰,反映訪港旅遊業重挫。GDP是滯後數字,關鍵是衰退何時見底,以及經濟能否止跌回升,還是持續低位徘徊。最近香港疫情緩和,防疫措施有望鬆綁,對消費市道雖有刺激作用,然而經濟復蘇還得看外圍疫情和政經形勢,以及本地政治社會狀况。疫情重挫西方,經濟V形反彈機會不大,本港出口短期難復舊觀;中美對抗激化、本地政治風暴山雨欲來,亦令復蘇蒙上陰霾,香港經濟下半年能否走出谷底,仍是一大疑問。

本港經濟打擊接二連三,中美貿易戰、反修例風暴,再到近月疫情衝擊,一浪甚於一浪。消費、投資、出口和政府開支,是GDP的4個重要構成部分。香港經濟去年中開始衰退,內部及對外需求持續疲弱,消費、投資、出口全線向下,政府不斷增加開支「撐經濟保就業」,亦無法扭轉形勢。本港3月份失業率為4.2%,是近10年新高,GDP則連續3季萎縮,跌幅不斷擴大。政府公布今年首季GDP預計按年下跌8.9%、按季萎縮5.3%,兩者均是有紀綠以來最大跌幅,比1998年亞洲金融風暴和2008年環球金融海嘯更差。

香港1月底首現確診病例,疫情在4月初達到高峰。歐美爆疫在香港引發第二波疫情,經濟破壞力比第一波更大,首季GDP數字只反映了其中一部分衝擊。當局為了應付第二波疫潮,3月底起推出一系列措施,包括收緊入境檢疫、限制社交距離、規管食肆和勒令高風險處所停業等。這些抗疫措施成效雖大,社會代價亦不菲,對經濟民生影響有多嚴重,還看次季GDP數據,第二季GDP萎縮速度若能放緩已屬萬幸。

財政司長陳茂波形容,疫下本港經濟陷入「深度衰退」。細看首季GDP各項數字,無不叫人觸目驚心,陳茂波期望環球疫情逐漸受控,香港經濟有望下半年逐步走出谷底,某程度只能說是一個良好願望。疫後全球經濟面臨重新洗牌,由供應鏈到國與國之間的相互連繫度,都可能出現巨變,本地政治社會形勢同樣充滿變數,香港下半年經濟前景未卜,唯有自求多福。

■Glossary生字

mired in sth : in a difficult or unpleasant situation that you cannot escape from

grind to a halt : to go slower gradually and then stop completely

across the board : applying to all

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