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Use of Digital Payment Systems Soar in HK

Hong Kong’s consumption voucher programme has sparked a major leap in the local use of electronic payment systems, the city’s finance chief has said, pointing to the creation of more than 2.2 million new accounts in the past few months.

A week after the roll-out of the first HK$2,000 instalment of the HK$5,000 e-vouchers, the Financial Secretary of Hong Kong said the scheme was achieving its goal of stimulating the economy and supporting employment, noting the “festive atmosphere” in society. Many shopkeepers have said the visitor flow has increased recently, with some consumers being more generous in their spending, the official wrote on his official blog on 8 August 2021.

It was also noted that the vouchers had laid the groundwork for Hong Kong’s transformation into a digital economy. The city has long lagged behind mainland China in its adoption of electronic payment systems.

As of last month, the total number of four major e-payment company accounts – the four systems designated for use with the programme – had grown by more than 2.2 million users. The number of merchants accepting those payments, meanwhile, had increased by more than 48,000. In a bid to draw consumers, the four companies have partnered with shopping centres and retail chains to roll out billions of dollars in lotteries and rebates.

The consumption voucher scheme has allowed citizens to pick the stored-value facility operators in accordance with their needs. It not only facilitates the competition among different operators but also lays the groundwork for electronic payment.

Recently, the Consumer Council said it had received 42 complaints so far about the consumption scheme, revealing some shops had required its customers to spend a minimum amount or charged transaction fees for the privilege of using the vouchers.

Residents have been reminded there was no allowance in the programme for either move, adding the electronic payment operators or the Consumer Council would follow up on shops that broke the rules. He also called on members of the public to sign up for the vouchers before the registration period ends while urging shops that had yet to accept electronic payments to get on board to take advantage of the consumption power to be released by the vouchers in the coming months.

The second batch of vouchers will be distributed from 1 October 2021, and depending on payment systems, will remain valid until 31 March 2022.

The HK$36 billion initiative was introduced by the Financial Secretary in his February budget blueprint to stimulate spending in local retail businesses, eateries and public transport, and boosting the city’s coronavirus-hammered economy by 0.7%.

A report from December 2021 states that Hong Kong ranks second to Singapore in Asia-Pacific and third globally among the world’s most highly digitally advanced economies. The territory is one of the most advanced digital economies with a score of 88.12, behind Singapore (98.82) and the United States (89.82), but ahead of other economies in Asia-Pacific, such as South Korea (83.09), Taiwan (80.75), Japan (77.76) and China (61.89), according to the Digital Intelligence Index, which was prepared by the Fletcher School at Tufts University in partnership with a leading global payments & technology company.

The Digital Intelligence Index is a data-driven holistic evaluation of the progress of the digital economy across 90 economies, combining more than 358 indicators in two scorecards: “digital evolution” and “digital trust”.

Under the “digital evolution” category, the research puts Hong Kong among the 13 “stand-out” markets, along with Singapore, the US, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Estonia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Qatar, which are highly digitally advanced and exhibit high momentum.

“These economies are leaders in driving innovation, building on their existing advantages in efficient and effective ways,” the study notes.

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