Tycoon who told young Hongkongers to save for flats 'criticised for original sin of being born rich'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015, 6:24am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015, 3:33pm

A suggestion by the government’s top youth adviser that young people skip holidays to save for flats was not wrong, but the criticism that followed was inevitable given his “original sin” of being born rich, former commerce minister Frederick Ma Si-hang said.

Ma was addressing controversial remarks by Commission on Youth chairman Lau Ming-wai, scion of the Chinese Estates empire, who last week suggested people save HK$3,000 out of a HK$15,000 salary every month. That way, they would be able to afford a down payment on a flat when prices in the property market slumped.

“The point he was trying to make was right. It’s just the way he communicated it that went wrong. It was unfortunate,” Ma said of Lau’s comments to online platform

“Poor man, he has an original sin – he was born into a rich family,” Ma said. “When he says things like that, people only feel he doesn’t understand their actual situation.”

Lau took over as head of the Commission on Youth in March. He became CEO of Chinese Estates last year.

But Ma said he understood why the younger generation was frustrated.

Ma said he earned HK$1,600 a month working as a management trainee at a bank 42 years ago. Six years later, his salary had risen to HK$10,000, and he bought his first property at the age of 39.

He said at that time, incomes in the city grew in proportion to the rise in property prices, and outpaced rises in food costs. Today, growth in salaries has been dwarfed by increases in property and food prices.

“My income went up sixfold in six years. Can young people see a chance of such upward mobility nowadays? I don’t think so.”