Source: Straits Times
HONGKONG, Aug 16, 2001: Even monks have been hit by the economic slowdown. A dwindling number of tourists has thrust Hongkong's biggest Buddhist monastery into the red, forcing it to ponder cost-cutting measures such as voluntary retirement. Showing it is not immune to the financial troubles hitting many Hongkong businesses, officials at Po Lin Monastery said yesterday that they had been running a deficit of US$77,000 a month since June. Chief monk Sik Chi Wai said any staff quitting the monastery would not be replaced, although there were no plans to impose layoffs on the staff of 150. He said rainy weather and two recent typhoons cut into the number of visitors. People on the payroll include cooks, kitchen workers, secretaries, cleaners, security guards and gift shop cashiers. Monastery operations manager Poon Kwok-kun said the monastery's revenue had fallen by at least 30 per cent over the past year as Hongkong's economy slowed, with only a few hundred visitors to the monastery on bad days. The monastery claims its outdoor seated bronze Buddha, perched on a mountain in Hongkong's outlying Lantau island, is the world's largest. Since the giant Buddha site opened in 1993, it has drawn more than seven million visitors. Lantau is known as the Island of Prayers, with almost 300 tiny Buddhist monasteries.