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  • Writer's pictureGREEN Hospitality

GREEN Hospitality’s Recommendation for the 2022-23 Budget

The Hong Kong government’s 2022-23 budget announcement will come at a time when the city struggles to cope with the fifth wave of COVID outbreak, and the healthcare system is incredibly strained. It is our hope that the government will be prudent with fund and resource allocation to the populations and industries that are hit the hardest, and to strategies and solutions for a safer, more sustainable and equitable Hong Kong.

Subsidies for Furloughed or Laid-off F&B Workers

Back in January this year, a legislator representing the restaurant and catering industry estimated that businesses would lose up to HK$6 billion in just two weeks, with the new implementation of strict dine-in regulations. According to a survey of 501 F&B workers, conducted by The Federation of Hong Kong Food & Beverage Industries Trade Unions this month, 81.5% reported to have been furloughed, due either to their restaurants shuttering or reducing opening hours. Despite this, hospitality and F&B workers are not included in the latest round of anti-epidemic relief fund, which will provide a one-off HK$10,000-subsidy to workers in high-risk jobs, such as cleaners, security guards, and airport freight workers.

Transparency and Accountability for Relief Fund

While restaurant operators are eligible for the new round of relief fund, we urge the government to acknowledge and amend the loopholes in the fund distribution mechanism. Post-distribution follow-up could be a way to ensure that restaurant operators and employers who have received the relief fund really do keep staff on the payroll, instead of making them redundant and pocketing the money themselves once the required periods are over. While it may be unrealistic to expect low restaurant closure rates in such challenging times, the relief fund has immense potential in rewarding responsible and ethical business practices. The government should ensure that the fund goes to restaurant operators and employers who are intentional about employee wellbeing and embrace it as part of their company policy.

The same accountability should apply to the Employment Support Scheme as well. We urge the government to learn from its mistake in the previous rounds of the Employment Support Scheme, so as not to “result in windfalls for businesses that have been unaffected or even done rather well during the crisis”, to quote David Webb, Hong Kong-based share market analyst and retired investment banker. If the government is serious about “strengthening and driving a sustained economic recovery for Hong Kong”, the tourism and hospitality industry will need significant funding support at a time when strict COVID regulations are putting many F&B businesses on the brink of closure, and the majority of employees are either furloughed or made redundant. These employees and their accumulated hospitality experience are what make Hong Kong a unique travel destination, and their retention is key to the city’s economic revival.

Funds Needed for Short- and Mid-term Climate Change Adaptation Measures

While we welcome the government putting climate change on the agenda in the 2021 budget plan, we urge the government to acknowledge climate change as also a short- and mid-term challenge, rather than just a long-term challenge. In our effort to reach net-zero carbon emissions, the government should start counting the carbon footprint of our imports, and providing subsidies to support technologies and suppliers with True Cost Accounting and carbon reduction solutions. Apart from subsidies, the government can also launch a green employment scheme to support companies with climate solutions. Additionally, funding support is needed for energy transition. Currently, most of the hospitality business are operated inside buildings. The government can consider incentivising the transition towards renewable energy or the adoption of regenerative energy models by providing subsidies to businesses that are willing to change their energy consumption patterns or retrofit their buildings for greater energy efficiency.

As a coastal city, Hong Kong is extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise, which could cause great human life losses and infrastructural damage. Subsequently, sea-level rise and other climate change effects could severely disrupt the tourism industry, which is one of the four pillar industries of the city. Along with long-term mitigation measures, the Hong Kong government must also allocate funds to short- and mid-term adaptation measures. These include adaptation measures against rising sea levels, designing and implementing disaster and public health plan for unpredictable weather events, addressing inequalities to mitigate climate injustice, as well as securing food supply.

The recent food insecurity issue, resulted from disrupted food supplies from China, is a good lesson to take from the pandemic for long-term solutions. Shortening the food supply chain can not only improve food security, but it is also good for the climate, with reduced carbon emissions from transportation of the produce. The ways to shorten the food supply chain include supporting local farmers, as well as innovations such as vertical farming and urban farming, which can partially overcome the city’s land scarcity issue while feeding the people.

In the third year of the pandemic, a green recovery seems closer to a dream than a reality for the hospitality and F&B sector in Hong Kong. Government funding support could provide a much-needed boost to this very sector that has long contributed to the city’s popularity as a travel destination. But here, again, we iterate our appeal to the government on its other sustainability-related funding schemes: enhance the transparency and accountability, so that the funds can be effectively spent to make a real, sustained difference.


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