My Take
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 7:34am

Franklin Lam has no place in Exco

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Franklin Lam Fan-keung may well believe he is in the public sector to serve the people and fulfil his civic duty. But here is a man who spent much of his highly lucrative career as a senior executive at the UBS investment bank analysing the property market, and advising and hobnobbing with high-net-worth clients and powerful bosses in the property sector. At the end of this, he joined the Executive Council in July and declared himself the owner of 27 properties, two of which he sold weeks before the government's latest measures to curb rocketing property prices - and made a killing. He said he still has two or three properties to sell.

To be fair, he said at the outset of his Exco career in July that he planned to sell "some properties". He could still command the same high prices for the two Mid-Levels properties he sold even after the new measures, as property prices have generally not come down, only the number of transactions.

As a member of the government's de facto cabinet, Lam said he knew nothing about the measures before they were introduced. But industry insiders had long guessed new measures were coming, just not the details. It's not for me to speculate whether or not Lam made use of insider knowledge. That should be a job for investigators to determine should an official probe result from the flat sales.

But even without the furore, Lam is ill-suited and unqualified to be a cabinet adviser to a government for which bringing down property prices and making homes affordable is a policy priority. As an investment analyst, he was a super-bull on the property market. Perhaps Lam really had a conversion on his way to Damascus. But his whole career, professional outlook and current huge portfolio of properties make him perfectly aligned with the mentality of high land value and rampant property speculation, rather than creating a rational and affordable market.

His think tank HKGolden50 advocates turning Tung Chung into a major commercial hub. He supports reclamation outside Victoria Harbour to boost land supply.

Quite simply, Lam is an advocate of the same old property development strategy that helped create the problem in the first place. And I haven't even delved into conflict of interest.

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