Officials must take care when intervening in property market

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 December, 2010, 12:00am

A heated debate followed the government's announcement of measures aimed at curbing property prices.

Both sides in the argument have made cogent points. However, the bottom line is not whether government regulation is necessary but to what extent it is needed. If measures are too much or too little they will be counter-productive. Too much regulation could ruin the free market on which this city was built. If the administration acts with a heavy hand it could lead to an economic downturn. A stagnant property market would lead to a reduction in government revenue. Unfair regulations would hurt potential buyers and flat owners.

Most people buy flats to live in, not for speculation. It does not make sense to introduce policies which lead to them being charged extra for the right to live in their own home. It has been suggested that the government could divest some of its land bank. This would cause land and property prices to plummet overnight, and this would be unfair to flat owners. On the other hand, if we only have nominal regulations, the wealth gap will continue to widen. The rich will get richer by buying and selling flats and the grass roots will struggle with the consequences of these speculative actions.

Also, this wheeling and dealing destroys the concept of what is meant by a home. It is not an investment to be bought and sold to maximise profit. It is a place where you build roots and bring up a family.

The unregulated cash cow that is the current property market is devastating the very concept of home and family, which is a virtue we Chinese people especially cherish. The lack of government intervention, as we can see from America, fuels an economic bubble.

When that bubble inevitably bursts, an economic collapse follows. Do we really want to suffer the same fate? The housing market has many facets. The government must allow it to flourish and at the same time prevent it from being exploited.

The latter is especially important because Hong Kong is a magnet for international speculators hoping to reap a quick and colossal profit.

Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long



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