Hong Kong has promised to use its multi-billion dollar budget warchest to smooth over social disputes that its financial chief warned could push the territory into "chaos."
Financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah revealed an estimated 2015 surplus of $3.8 billion and a 2016 surplus of $1.4 billion on Wednesday, followed by a slew of fiscal stimulus and social relief measures aimed at boosting local consumption and kickstarting the economy.
But it remains to be seen whether the announcements will pacify rising social unrest over lifestyle issues. The special administrative region consistently ranks as one of the world's most expensive cities to live due to unaffordable housing and maintains some of the longest working hours in the developed world, factors that have seen protesters take to the streets with increasing frequency.
This month, hundreds rioted against the government's clearing of illegal street vendors in the working class suburb of Mong Kok, injuring at least 90 police officers. Such protests were hurting the economy, Tsang said.
Data released Wednesday showed that Hong Kong's gross domestic product grew 2.4 percent in 2015, and is expected to slow to 1-2 percent in 2016.
"Politics and economics are closely intertwined. Political volatility will unavoidably impact on our economy," he said, warning that politics-inspired disputes were likely to intensify ahead of this year's Legislative Council general election.
"Acute social conflicts will add uncertainties to the already adverse economic environment," Tsang stated, adding that if such conflicts went unresolved, Hong Kong risked "even greater chaos" and future generations growing up "in the midst of hatred and malice."
Whether the sweeteners for residents, as set out below, will prove sufficient to calm this anger, remains to be seen.