Cartland not ready to relax mortgage rules
By KEVIN MURPHY
THE Government's newest secretary-level economic administrator, Mr Michael Cartland, has lost no time before jumping into the on-going debate over mortgage lending levels.
On his first day as head of the Monetary Affairs Branch (soon to become Financial Services Branch in a bureaucratic reshuffle scheduled for April), Mr Cartland repeated the Government's stance that speculative tendencies remained in the residential property market.
As such, he said the Government was not yet ready to suggest mortgage lending restrictions - now maintained by the territory's banks at 70 per cent of total property value - be relaxed.
''We are still concerned about the situation. Prices have come down but they haven't fallen that much. It is still possible that the property sector could be reignited,'' he said.
''The situation is very dangerous. While we are reviewing the pressures in the property sector, I would not wish to say that a decision was imminent.'' Mr Cartland also confirmed the Government's apparent displeasure with a financing arrangement struck last month between property developer Henderson Land and Hongkong Bank, allowing Henderson to extend top-up lending to home-buyers, allowing some to enter the market with only a 10 per cent deposit.
''We hope that was an isolated incident,'' said Mr Cartland. ''It was a reflection of pressure to extend lending and to boost sales. We hope it won't be repeated.'' Mr Cartland's domain, inherited from the now retired Mr David Nendick, will be diminished in April when the new Monetary Authority headed by Mr Joseph Yam Chi-kwong takes shape.
Under the plan the Monetary Authority will annex most of the monetary and banking regulation functions from Mr Cartland's agency which in turn will be renamed the Financial Services Branch.
The Financial Services Branch will provide broad financial policy support to the Government and work closely with the Securities and Futures Commission while overseeing the Insurance Commission, the Registrar General and the Census and Statistics Department.