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  • Dec 22, 2014
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Jake's View
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 July, 2013, 1:39am

Flats for a million apiece: why did the bureaucrats reject it?


Jake van der Kamp is a native of the Netherlands, a Canadian citizen, and a longtime Hong Kong resident. He started as a South China Morning Post business reporter in 1978, soon made a career change to investment analyst and returned to the newspaper in 1998 as a financial columnist.

The government has turned down property tycoon Lee Shau-kee's offer to donate land for homes and urged landowners with similar plans to work with non-profit organisations such as the Housing Society instead.

South China Morning Post
July 4

I may be wrong about this but nowhere in all the reports of this rejection have I seen any sign of the government offering a word of thanks to Mr Lee for his public spirit in offering to build 10,000 flats for young people at only HK$1 million each.

You would think he was due at least a thank you. For a long time now we have heard legislators bemoan the impossible entry cost to young people of owning a home while bureaucrats wring their hands and do no more than hint that it is the fault of speculators and developers.

Then along comes a prime example of the nefarious developer with an offer to build flats for young people at prices representing construction costs alone, at no profit to himself, if only the government would do its part by waiving land premiums. And what do our bureaucrats say?

They say no. They don't even say thank you to Mr Lee for his offer. They just say no and then a day later offer a regurgitation of an earlier scheme to build several towns of misery that will be filled by social security recipients alone, as the locations are too remote to attract anyone who has the choice. Not another mention is made of flats for HK$1 million each.

Thus it comes down to a scurrilous journalist to offer that well deserved thank you to Mr Lee and I do it not only for his demonstration of public spirit but for the fact that he showed up all the bureaucrats' lamentations on housing prices as just so many crocodile tears.

I don't believe they ever seriously considered Mr Lee's offer. I think the reason they took over a month to respond was purely to construct the illusion of taking it seriously and to give themselves plenty of time to dream up excuses.

Take that one about how they had to eliminate consideration of one large plot because part of it had already been designated for a petrol station. We are talking of an offering of 10,000 flats at prices not seen since near the bottom of the property market 10 years ago. Was a tentative designation on a planning map enough to refuse it?

Surely there must be some way around this slight difficulty as there must also be around the objection that it is discriminatory to make these flats available to young people only. For all his occasional gaffes, Mr Lee is a reasonable man. Surely someone could have talked to him and worked out a legally acceptable scheme.

Similarly, I cannot see that the government would have lost much by agreeing to waive the lease conversion premiums. We are running a fiscal surplus of HK$80 billion a year at the moment and we have free fiscal reserves of about HK$1.6 trillion. We have plenty of money.

Yes, waiving premium could conceivably cost the public purse tens of billions of dollars if other developers were to line up to follow Mr Lee's example, as there were indications they would do.

But for a cause that the government loudly professes to espouse, with ample money available to support that cause, this could have been a winner. Flats for a million apiece, why did the bureaucrats reject it rather than look for ways to make it work?

I think it was for that most compelling of all reasons, to wit that this scheme threatened the bureaucrats themselves. To agree to it would have been to undermine their cherished administrative procedures and their position in society. If developers can give us flats at HK$1 million apiece why look to government for them?

It is my experience from decades in the investment business that developers will always overbuild massively if given the opportunity. There are two bottlenecks, however, to this potential flood of housing. They are land and building permission, both of which are under control of government and jealously hoarded.

My thanks, thus, to Mr Lee for the demonstration he has given us that government utterances are once again just so much sanctimonious prattle.



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This article is now closed to comments

u cannot be this naive
in ANY Other civilized nation this lee POS would be vilified in the press for his dirty deals
in hkg he is a god
he is giving nothing away for nothing - disgusting pig
pslhk: I don't know about you, but I really get a kick out of ignoramuses like wwong888 making a fool of himself. Maybe the best job he ever had is flipping burgers. That's why he can't tell the difference of business functional areas between strategic marketing and IT. Bet he has never written a single line of computer code. To him, anyone who can program in Basic and Cobol is an IT guy. Like you said about him a while ago, 有奶就是娘.
Both he and jve resent anyone with proficiency in math and worse, real Chinese people. In Cantonese we call English speaking folks with garbled logic 死剩把口.
Re: wong888 Jul 8th 2013 3:20pm
Yellow eight egg is sorry
for his inability to comprehend
For such honesty in admitting thickness
here's my last reply to his (?) silly utterance
No need to say sorry
just adjust your mentality
you can't be stubborn about meter and rhyme
whenever you see a verse structure
Look up "prose" in Wiki
I've written in this forum
about my experiment with a form of hybrid prose
using English words without regard to rules
in an unconventional form to attain clarity
My parting word to wrong egg is
"GorGeu" (find another master)
If the writer wants to thank Mr. Lee so much, go ahead and call him up for dinner and thank him yourself personally.............don't be stupid enough to tell the rest of HK'rs to thank this old fool that obviously was expecting some favours from the government if they accepted his land........pure stupidity.
LSK may wish to focus on two Conduit Road examples
that should show why he is disliked by his customers and the public
No 39 is disgraceful building, of cheap design and high price
There isn't even a private booth or even a stand for its watchmen
who are posted on public pavement
in summer time they take refuge
under a makeshift umbrella with an electric fan
all placed on public land
with water bottles on the ground
like hawkers selling drinks outside a public lavatory
It hasn't changed the narrow and curvy ramp of Rocky Mount
the old building which it has replaced
probably for grandfathering its existing encroachment on public land
Its façade is an eyesore of tedious wall
with a rusty metal and glass door
that looks cheaper than most found in public housing estates
no wonder it's 80% vacant years after completion
Imperial Court at No 62G is a 50+storey monster
erected on what was once a wooded slope
Inexplicably the development of such a monstrous compound
situated in a curvy section of the street
was approved WITHOUT the provision of a private loading area
Yet it's obtained license to operate two shuttle buses
that loiter on the street between scheduled runs
making noises and spilling pollutants,
or illegally parking roadside or in other people's private driveways
taxis, school buses, vans and trucks often line up roadside along the building
creating public inconvenience and hazards
how is the sales and marketing strategy for a Henderson development on Conduit Road relevant for consideration of the chairman's personal philanthropic grant? or its design? or the level of shading for its guards? i actually don't have a view on the LSK donation, because I don't have sufficient information - but I do know none of what you cite is relevant. Pslhk, like whymak, you just spew nonsense. At least whymak packages it with useless facts or anecdotes, a touch of racism, some pointless mathematic formulas, and an air of superiority, which makes it slightly more entertaining to read because he has no idea what an irrelevant loser he is.
you on the other hand are just plain stupid. do me a favor, if you are going to write like this, take the freaking time to make it rhyme please, otherwise you are just a pretentious tw-t.
As you asked me to do you a favor
I'd advise that you apply to a good primary school
to start learning how to think
before you open your mouth again
For tips
Don't be so foolish as calling yourself
yellow eight egg
As regards my comment's relevance to JvdK's opinion
this is an adaptation from my original comment for Shirley Yam's column
Even given your level of "intelligence"
you're aware that you're not in the same league of commentators
like whymak and me
so you shouldn't venture out of your depth
stop reading and commenting on what you can't understand
otherwise you will soon get locked up in Castle Peak Hospital
and become an omen of yellow sick sick sick (wwong 666)
sorry, failed your reading comprehension test. rhyme it please.
I am not fond of oligarchs and oligopolies. Lee Shau Kee is no exception. What other readers say about his past dealings, especially the Conduit Road scandal, are legitimate questions about his dubious business practices. Still, demonizing rich folks' unknown motives out of envy and ideological passions has become lately Hong Kong favorite past time.
I remember how his behavior was unflattening to our society. The bribery offer to an Oxford don in an attempt to gain admission for his son is high profile corruption worthy of mainland governments. Interestingly, people criticizing him now are not ones picking on Anson Chan for getting a pricey property for a song. Ideology at work? Betcha!
Lee violated no law with this offer. Scrutinize it all you want. Don't act hastily like other self-hate Hong Kongers -- cutting your nose to spite your face.
Acquisitiveness is quite common during middle age -- a necessary life cycle phase to fend off insecurity -- for those who have the opportunity. As financial independence becomes assured in old age, with one foot in the grave, some develop an urge to return some wealth to society. Yes, I know this type of individuals. Even friends with modest wealth are beginning to do the same.
Like Jake, I could think of 101 scenarios how you could be robbed blind in complex financial dealings. But malicious conjectures are hardly appropriate here.
Of course you're all entitled to your opinions, but not to facts, logic and reason.




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