• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 3:38am
Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 4:31am

Message from developers is clear: more profits


Michael Chugani is a Hong Kong-born American citizen who has worked for many years as a journalist in Hong Kong, the USA and London. Aside from being a South China Morning Post columnist he also hosts ATV’s Newsline show, a radio show and writes for two Chinese-language publications. He has published a number of books on politics which contain English and Chinese versions.

What we saw a day after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's policy speech was the sickening face of unrestrained greed. Property developers and home-sellers gleefully rubbed their hands as Leung's speech landed with a hollow thud, empty of the cooling measures they had feared. Home-sellers jacked up prices immediately. The greedier ones took their flats off the market. As for our tycoon developers, Public Eye has repeatedly said their greed knows no boundaries. Leung's speech had a clear message - he wants to make homes affordable for Hongkongers. But the message from the developers was equally clear - stuff affordable homes, we want to squeeze every cent from the people. These same developers always portray themselves as saints. They finance a few schools or hospitals with their names emblazoned across the buildings to boast their charitable work. And they insist they have Hong Kong's interest at heart. How can it be in Hong Kong's interest if they sabotage government efforts by jacking up home prices? By doing that they are forcing yet more Hongkongers into squalid subdivided flats. Public Eye has often wondered how these tycoons sleep at night. They are no saints, they're vultures.


Call their bluff and tax the vacant flats

Every time the government tries to cool the market our property developers angrily cry foul - denouncing it as interfering with the free market. What free market? A handful of tycoons control our property market. That's more a monopoly than a free market. The vultures are crying foul again. All it took this time was a vague warning from C.Y. Leung of a tax on vacant flats if developers hoarded them to force up prices. Reports say there are thousands of vacant flats even though the vacancy rate is a normal 4 per cent. But in Hong Kong's preposterously absurd market, every flat helps. We can't afford thousands of vacant ones. There is now talk that developers won't build if there is a vacancy tax or further cooling measures. Let's call their bluff. If they won't build, the government or the smaller developers who have been shut out of the market can. But we bet the vultures won't stop building. There are too many billions to be made. How else can they stay on the Forbes rich list? So let's impose a tax now on flats left vacant by developers and other property owners. And let's impose a tax on land left idle. The money raised can go towards rehousing families in caged homes and subdivided flats.


Dear John, the market never really cooled

There he goes again. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is warning of further cooling measures if the property market heats up again. Where has he been? La-la land, of course. That explains why he doesn't know the market never cooled after previous measures. People just stopped buying but prices never fell. That also explains why he doesn't know C.Y. Leung's policy speech sent prices rocketing. So if he's waiting for the market to heat up again before imposing new cooling measures he must be in a place more remote than la-la land.


Is there something missing in this pretty picture?

The gweilos must be peeved. C.Y. Leung made a big deal of the cover of his policy speech - a picture of six smiling children running on green grass against a clear blue sky. He said the picture stressed the importance of unity of all Hongkongers regardless of race or religion. There are Chinese and South Asian children in the picture, and what looks like a Eurasian, but no gweilos.



Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive


This article is now closed to comments

You're probably right that Hong Kong real estate obligopolists won't collect their chips and play elsewhere any time soon.
Their profit margins are still great. The risk adjusted return on their real estate investments in Hong Hong is better and safer than any developed country.
Except for Li Ka Shing, these tycoons are all one-trick ponies. Instead of shedding the political baggage from the colonial era, Tsang Yam Kuen had pretty much left these rent seekers operate unimpeded as privileged oligarchs under the old system.
You must refrain from waging class wars and playing Robin Hood, which are games for the self-destructive and the ignorant. There is little CY could do unless we grant him carte blanche during his term. Only the power of a Czar could reinitialize the already crashed political system and to start it in a safe mode in time for the 2017 elections. Civic party and pan democrats are making sure that won't happen.
So this remains a pipe dream until Hong Kong self-hate saboteurs voluntarily migrate to Siberia and establish their own democratic anarchy there -- out of sight for us and for them, out of mind.
Short of this miracle, maybe we should learn to suffer in silence and watch come what may. Maybe the central government will take pity on us and send its economic mastermind of yesteryear, Zhu Rongji, provided his mind and health still hold up, to be our governor.


SCMP.com Account