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Hong Kong likely to post 4th-quarter contraction

HONG Kong will probably record negative growth for the fourth quarter of 2008, and the economic statistics may deteriorate further in 2009, with unemployment expected to rise, Hong Kong's finance chief said on Saturday.

Speaking at a budget consultation video forum, Financial Secretary John Tsang said he was not sure when the global financial downturn will come to an end.

He said the unemployment rate was expected to peak in the middle of the year when many college students leave campus. But the Hong Kong government will not necessarily cut back on public spending when drafting its budget for the next fiscal year, starting April 1.

"We shall go ahead with spending where necessary," he said.

Tsang said that he knew young people had concerns over the future developments of Hong Kong's society as well as their job prospects but said the Hong Kong government will put in place measures to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

The regional government plans to alleviate employment pressure by launching internship programs and other projects to create short-term job positions, in addition to hiring over 7,700 civil servants by the end of March next year.

Government officials recently called on local firms to avoid quick decisions to cut jobs.


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