‘Sleepless nights’ for Hong Kong finance chief over economic prospects for young generation
Christmas Eve article by Financial Secretary Paul Chan expresses worry that economic growth is failing to make young residents happy
Hong Kong’s young people are unhappy despite economic growth, mainly due to sky-high property prices and rents, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said on Sunday.
In an article posted on his blog on Christmas Eve, Chan said ever-increasing rents and property prices had imposed a heavy burden on Hongkongers and stunted the development of start-ups and entire industries.
“It gives me sleepless nights and a low appetite,” he said.
Many residents, especially the young, were under immense pressure due to stagnating salaries and long working hours, Chan said, recounting past discussions with grass-roots families and other locals.
A pessimistic view of the future was also a common feature, he added.
This was despite robust economic growth, which was expected to clock in at 3.7 per cent this year.
Chan said there was a shortage of land for developing housing, offices, creative spaces and nursing homes.
“The government is making an effort to find land and explore solutions from every possible angle,” he said.
An official task force on land supply was set up in August to discuss 12 options previously identified to free up space for construction around the city.
Some of the proposals are highly controversial however, such as developing parts of the city’s scenic and ecologically rich country parks and creating a 1,000-hectare artificial island to the east of Lantau.
But Chan urged Hongkongers not to “look at these proposals to increase land supply with a zero-sum game perspective”.
The task force has said at least 1,200 hectares of land are needed for housing and economic development. The proposals are set to be put to a public consultation exercise in March.
Chan said young people in many places around the world were facing a lack of upward mobility in society. The Hong Kong government had been promoting the development of creative and technological industries to provide more jobs and diversify the local economy, he said.
He also urged young people to seek out opportunities in mainland China and overseas.