Public Eye
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2013, 4:29am

Only a crash will rid market of greedy speculators


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 TVB’s Straight Talk 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.

Public Eye totally opposes the government's latest market-cooling measures. Blind greed has already possessed the entire property market. What we need to do is to exorcise this greed. Cooling measures won't do that. Home prices will soon rebound, as they did within months of past measures. Greed always finds a way. It was on full display within minutes of the government's Friday afternoon announcement of new cooling measures. Property tycoons rushed to sell flats before the measures took effect at midnight on Friday. They proved once again what we have long said - that lining their own pockets comes before the city's overall good. To cleanse the market of greed we have to let it crash. Cooling measures only delay a crash that is inevitable anyway. A market collapse would not hurt innocent homeowners. If you're an owner-occupier, you'll only suffer a paper loss. If you sell to upgrade, you'll get less for your flat but your new home will cost less, too. A bubble burst will only hurt greedy speculators and developers. Decent Hongkongers want to see them squirm. So let's hasten the crash.


Tycoons to donate land? Watch this space

Has guilt finally knocked a bit of conscience into some of our property tycoons? Or does that newfound conscience come with a catch? Two tycoons took turns offering free land to the government to build cheap homes. You don't have to be a cynic to suspect there's got to be a catch somewhere: that was our first reaction. Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land Development and Henry Cheng Kar-shun of New World Development are among the world's richest people, profiting obscenely from Hong Kong's ever-crazy property market. But the wealth our tycoons amass, they keep. Bill Gates they are not. Lee and Cheng have hoarded huge reserves of farmland, and suddenly they want to give some of it away for nothing to benefit society? Have they belatedly been visited by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future? Or are there strings attached? Now that Lee and Cheng have talked big, Public Eye will wait for them to deliver. A word of warning to them: the spirits don't take kindly to a conscience with a catch.


Tourism boss needs to come back to earth

Has he gone loopy? If not, he must have joined our bureaucrats in la-la land. Tourism Board boss James Tien Pei-chun thinks Hong Kong needs still more mainland tourists. He's going to spend HK$51 million of the people's money to lure them. Last week he mocked Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for saying we should not blindly increase tourist numbers. He challenged Leung to pinpoint how, exactly, the mainland influx had disrupted the lives of Hongkongers. If Tien doesn't know that, he must indeed be in la-la land. We suggest he beams back to earth and try riding the MTR, buying baby milk powder, visiting Ocean Park and Disneyland, walking in Causeway Bay or Tsim Sha Tsui, trying to look for school places in border towns such as Sheung Shui, or getting the attention of sales staff in shopping malls frequented by mainlanders. But Tien, a very wealthy man, doesn't live like a normal Hongkonger. He rides around in a chauffeured car, schools his children abroad, gets VIP treatment at the theme parks, and never has to compete with mainlanders for necessities. So maybe we should forgive him for being clueless about how the 35 million mainlanders who visited last year threw local life out of whack.



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