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Leung Chun-ying

Leung Chun-ying, also known as CY Leung, is the chief executive of Hong Kong. He was born in 1954 and assumed office on July 1, 2012. During the controversial 2012 chief executive election, underdog Leung unexpectedly beat Henry Tang, the early favourite to win, after Tang was discredited in a scandal over an illegal structure at his home.

CommentInsight & Opinion

Housing is Leung's battle to fight

Philip Yeung says the chief executive is right to focus on housing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 10:03am
 

Poll

  • Yes: 78%
  • No: 22%
8 Oct 2012
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 527

It has been a toe-curling first 100 days for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. In fact, he may be the first modern government leader to be denied a political honeymoon. It is really not his fault. He has been handed a poisoned chalice by his do-nothing predecessor.

From what I can see, Leung is a sincere activist leader who is anxious to do the best for us. His has been the most responsive administration since the handover. Just look at his actions on parallel traders and pregnant mainlanders.

But his job has been made tougher by the Legislative Council election results. If he wants to effect changes that require Legco approval, he will have to slog it out. But outside the chamber, there is plenty of room to bring about the desired changes.

Everybody can see he has put housing on the front burner. He has been forced to tread cautiously, so as not to burst the housing bubble when the world economy is already so brittle. Yet, his careful steps have not cooled the market. If anything, prices have climbed.

This doesn't mean Leung is strategically stymied. Broadly speaking, he has three strategic moves open to him. Many blame sky-high property prices on insufficient supply. If this is the case, why is the government turning a blind eye to the 200,000 or so flats that are said to be sitting unoccupied? In a tight market, hoarding properties is immoral, and should be illegal. The government should slap a surtax on flats left vacant for more than a year; the longer they remain so, the higher the punitive tax. This simple administrative move would bring instant results.

Second, close a legal loophole in flat purchasing. Hong Kong has a near water-tight control in money laundering in the banking sector, but curiously flat buyers are exempt. The Inland Revenue Department should be alerted when multimillion-dollar properties are bought outright. Newly elected legislator Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong has promised to raise the problem of the potentially nefarious activities of mainland flat-buyers when the legislature convenes. As an accountant, he should know.

There have been scandalous tales of mainland buyers handing over 200 million yuan in 100-yuan notes in a developer's office. When the buyer resells, the profits plus the original purchase price have all become clean money. This kind of behaviour should be a thing of the past.

Third, unblock the bureaucratic bottlenecks in approving building permits. Hong Kong civil servants are at their best when handling matters within their own departments. But they dilly-dally when there is overlap with other departments. The Urban Renewal Authority, for example, has to clear many bureaucratic hurdles before the bulldozers can move in.

Red tape is giving builders and buyers the blues. Leung needs to appoint a committee to study and recommend ways to simplify and streamline operations, not just in housing but across the board. Enhancing government efficiency could be his most enduring legacy.

The chief executive wants quick solutions to the housing problems for the middle and lower classes. That being so, he should not be wrong-footed by the hornet's nest over the registration and removal of illegal structures. If you think the revolt over national education has been messy, wait for the organised armed resistance by village house owners. A violent confrontation will scar the administration and derail its remaining agenda.

Tearing down the illegal additions has only downsides: reducing the housing supply and adding untold tonnes of debris to our fast-filling landfills. No one benefits. Leung has inherited this headache from the last two administrations. He should put it on the back burner. Or he can declare a general amnesty with heavy penalties.

Good government is about good timing. Removing illegal structures belongs to the bottom of Leung's to-do list. Unless he wants Hong Kong shamed and his name besmirched.

Philip Yeung is a senior communication manager at a Hong Kong University. philipkcyeung2@yahoo.com

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This article is now closed to comments

lucifer
"The Inland Revenue Department should be alerted when multimillion-dollar properties are bought outright."
This could be the single most effective thing he could do to curb Mainland speculation in the property market. As China tightens the screws with limitations on property purchases in the Mainland, more and more capable investors will flock to Hong Kong to speculate instead.
megafun
Property prices can come down and must come down....to a reasonable level........as dictate by HK's average income..........CY ought to have the guts to set "target" localprivate sector housing price - Say from $3000 in Yuen Long to $10,000 on the peak.......the same should be done for public and semi-public housing.......Afterall, if property is treated as "bread & rice", a essential elemnet in our living, then I'm sure there are infinate ways to control its speculations and prices.
keresearch
HK residents' income is irrelevant when access to the the market is opened to the wealthiest from a society of 1.2 billion who want to get their money offshore. I suspect Hong Kong property prices will soar.
SpeakFreely
Let's step back n ask if our construction law is outdated? I would assume our law is designed to improved the quality of our life. I happen to live half half between Hk and Florida. To illustrate, in most parts of USA, they allow people easily improve their home. In Florida we can easily get a permit to install an outdoor swimming pool connected to the house via an enclosed structure called lanai with top cover and structure to fence off bugs. in Hk this is impossible! The problem is even with limited land in Hk our law still not letting us to make best use of it. In NT where it some place are far away from city with poor Transporation. So I would assume this is a trade off living in NT will have more "freedom" to improve my home as long as it is safe. As least people who choose to have this life style will have more choice of outdoor living like Florida. But our current law prohibits basically any extension makes life more difficult than living in Florida that has more land than Hk. Does this really make sense? If you have a roof in village house and you can't build any thing on it to protect against sun and rain, what's the use of that ? How am I going to improve my quality of life? Equally I saw many balconies on Hk island are enclosed illegally but I have no issue with it as it is facing a busy high way I see this is the only way to make use of the space. But our outdated laws prohibit us to improve our quality of life. Actually is it protecting the developers?
SpeakFreely
Legco members, you are elected to create laws to improve our quality of life but not just to blindly enforcing any outdated laws. Particularly to DP.
SpeakFreely
I'm sick to hear this morning Lau of Democrat Party still pushing hard for the speedy demolition of the illegal structure. She should read my comments and this column. She and DP has no understanding of "priority" and no understanding the implications but just try to opposite for the sack of being opposition. lau and DP: demolition of safe structures will displace people and reduce inventory and in turn drive up demand and flat prices! Economic 101. I think they were either employed or funded by the developers as a lobbyist....
lucifer
If most people are adversely affected by the current property market regime, I don't see why others should be able to reap benefits. If prices came down to affordable levels, then I think more people would support scaling down the restrictions. HK may be the most expensive property market in the world, but we are certainly not the region with the most wealthy people…
SpeakFreely
That is the problem of Hk mentality of "why other should reap the benefits". The issue is this will benefit too all. As demand surge will push up prices and city people also suffer. Not only that, many city people do no want to live in NT village house because of poor transportation, education, shopping and facilities overall, etc. In fact village people gave us on these as tax money was never invested in our area too. So in that sense it is not fair to village resident either! Therefore should be give and take. Should not be if you don't have it why you have it mentality. Plus I have no issue of keeping so called illegal structure like enclosed balcony in Hk side too. The issue is our law is very outdated not cater for the growth and improving quality of life of the publics.
omnimus
Indeed Mr. Leung is trying very hard to do good for the low and middle classes, I only wishes more people can see that and understand he will need time. I hope his assistants could improve planning of what they need to do and communication with the public. Maybe they should be more plain or direct rather than use bureaucratic languages when speaking to the public.
donniemcm
Well resumed points

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