Skyrocketing rents have driven businesses from Yuen Long
Thanks to rampant property speculation, the Hong Kong government spends far more time and effort trying to curb soaring property prices than do the authorities of comparable cities.
It is making every attempt to ensure that property prices remain within the reach of its citizens. However, despite the best endeavours of officials, prices are still far from acceptable.
The impact of these skyrocketing prices is egregiously high rents for offices and shops.
The administration has done little to counter these rapidly rising rents.
I rent several office units to run my business in Yuen Long and have just renewed a contract for another two years.
To my chagrin, the rent has increased by almost 30 per cent.
Some of the other unlucky tenants in my building have had an increase imposed which is as high as 40 per cent. There are many whose predicament is far worse.
The rents of the shops at street level which are near my office have gone up by much higher percentages. As a result, quite a few businesses have closed and chain stores have moved in, since they - for unknown reasons - can afford to pay astronomically high rents.
The reason for the high rents is due to the high demand and lack of supply of commercial buildings in Yuen Long.
I have lived in Yuen Long for almost eight years. Over this period, several thousand residential units have been built.
At the same time, not a single commercial unit or shop has been erected.
The high rents have a profound impact on many people.
As I said, some businesses and shops have been forced to close down.
Their owners put a great deal of effort into developing their business and still barely eked out a living.
In the end, they had to shut their doors, not because they had failed, but because the well-off property owners wanted more oil from their well.
What is happening in Yuen Long is only the tip of the iceberg.
If the government is unable to defuse this ticking bomb by offering more commercial buildings, especially in the New Territories, commodity prices and office and shop rents will continue to rise and small business owners will continue to suffer.
As a result, Hong Kong will become known as a 'property owners' paradise', rather than a 'shoppers' paradise'.
Ultimately, visitors and foreign investors will baulk at the idea of coming to Hong Kong.
Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long