When the government was looking for 'family silver' to sell in order to raise much-needed cash, the Housing Authority's car parks and shopping malls were an obvious and sensible choice. The sale of these valuable assets will not only help balance the authority's books. The properties are also likely to be more efficiently run once in private hands, and Hong Kong people have the chance to buy a stake, securing what is expected to be a safe and lucrative investment. But the government now stands accused of selling off Hong Kong's 'silver' too cheaply - and not allowing enough members of the family to benefit. Some critics see the privatisation - in the form of the world's biggest real estate investment trust - as another example of the government pandering to big business. The privatisation is expected to bring in about $32 billion. This is more than was originally forecast. But there is evidence to suggest that the government could - and should - have secured a better deal. This would not matter if the properties were being sold primarily to members of the Hong Kong public. It would simply mean that a public asset was being transferred to the people at an attractive price. The problem, however, is that a big slice of this particularly appealing pie - probably the biggest - is to be gobbled up by institutional investors, many of them from overseas. When viewed in this light, the privatisation begins to look more like a transfer of wealth to certain privileged business interests. Criticism has focused on the setting aside of only 10 per cent of the units for retail investors. This, however, is not the full story. Clawback clauses mean that if the demand from the public is strong enough, retail investors will receive a much higher proportion. Given that the expected yield is high - it could be more than 7 per cent - and that the risks are low, there is likely to be a scramble for units. Estimates suggest the retail portion could be subscribed hundreds of times. There is a good chance the proportion of units sold to retail investors could be as much as 40 to 50 per cent. But this is still not good enough. Housing minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung is right to suggest that the arrangements are 'the norm' for big IPOs. But this particular IPO should be different. After all, we are dealing with the sale of property that belongs to the Hong Kong taxpayer. The problem is that a quarter of the units have been set aside for nine so-called 'cornerstone investors' and one 'strategic investor'. The idea is that the commitment made by these relative heavyweights will provide stability and therefore instil confidence in other investors. This might be a sound practice for private IPOs, but it is simply not needed for the Link reit. Everyone knows it is a safe bet. That is why they are clamouring to get their applications in. Certainly, management expertise will be provided by the strategic investor, CapitaLand, from Singapore. But this only reduces the need for the nine cornerstone investors. There are also sound political reasons why the government should be keen to see as many Hong Kong people as possible having a stake in these assets. In order to make the promised returns, the new managers are going to have to run the malls and car parks more efficiently. They hope to achieve this through upgrading the facilities and making them more attractive. But there is a good chance that there will be job cuts or rent rises somewhere along the line. There have already been protests from tenants and future conflicts are likely. When they occur, the heat will surely be turned on the government. But that heat will not be so intense if a large cross-section of the community has a stake in the properties concerned - and therefore an interest in seeing a good return on their investment. The listing is due to take place on December 16. The proportion of units sold to Hong Kong's retail investors should be as big as possible.