Hong Kong Protests Color Budget Plans

HONG KONG — Two months after protesters were cleared from the streets, the Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday an annual budget full of tax breaks and other handouts to provide economic support to the lower and middle classes, as well as businesses that it said had been disrupted by 11 weeks of demonstrations.

Although outlays for social welfare and education are set to rise, a major target of government spending in the coming year will be large-scale infrastructure projects — expenditures that often benefit the wealthy elite, who control the city’s property developers and construction companies.

Hong Kong is spending billions of dollars on several megaprojects that have been subject to significant delays and cost overruns. These include nearly $10 billion on a 50-kilometer, or 31-mile, bridge and tunnel to the cities of Macau and Zhuhai, across the mouth of the Pearl River from Hong Kong; $6 billion on a new cluster of theaters and arts venues; $9 billion on a high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, in southern China; and $14 billion on extensions to the local subway system.

In his budget speech on Wednesday, John Tsang, the city’s financial secretary, said work on a third runway for the Hong Kong International Airport, estimated in 2011 to cost at least $18 billion, could begin next year and finish by 2023, though a final budget has yet to be announced.

“Being plugged into China in the long run is a structural positive and an overall competitive advantage for Hong Kong,” he added. “But in the shorter to medium term, China is going through a structural economic adjustment, and there are some risks in that for Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong’s economy grew 2.3 percent last year, compared with 2013, in line with forecasts. The government expects growth of 1 percent to 3 percent this year, Mr. Tsang said Wednesday.

A version of this article appears in print on February 26, 2015, in The International New York Times. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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