Paul Chan revealed his budget on Wednesday that was far from visionary
Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po delivered his budget on Wednesday and for the most part it was ho-hum. He wasn't very visionary in terms of spending money, and many were disappointed there were no cash handouts despite the record HK$138 billion.
Instead he threw HK$310 million into Ocean Park, made government rates for homeowners free for a whole year, cut the amount of income tax people have to pay and threw millions of dollars into artificial intelligence and innovations.
However in terms of housing, Chan seems to signal the government's impatience with developers.
He said the government will start to tackle "undesirable" property sales tactics employed by developers, such as requiring buyers to bid for flats instead of giving a clear price per square footage.
Chan also said the number of unsold flats in completed property developments have been on the rise, while the government is trying to increase the housing supply.
As of last September, there were 9,000 unsold flats in private developments, of which 4,000 were in projects completed last year, making it 31 percent of the total number of flats finished in the year.
That compares to 2,000 unsold flats in projects completed in 2016 and 1,000 from those finished in 2015.
He also said the government would look at developers putting up flats for tender, saying it was "undesirable".
In the meantime the government will also finally make use of idle or underdeveloped government, institutional and community land. It will spend HK$1 billion to renovate 900 government plots for NGOs to use and some for housing.
Chan says the government will put up 27 residential sites and four commercial sites up for sale this financial year, which could yield up to 15,200 flats and 5.7 million square feet of commercial space.
The government estimates it can provide 75,000 public rental flats and 25,000 subsidized flats for sale in the next five years, well short of the 10-year target of building 280,000 public sector flats.
It's good to know Chan is going to be tougher on developers, but how hard line will he be in really cracking down on those who are hoarding flats or making buyers bid the highest price?
What kind of punishments will he implement and how will the rules be enforced?
Finally the government is going to reuse its idle land and buildings -- about time! How many times have we implored the government to do this?!
But what about the environment? There were no major announcements on initiatives to protect the environment in terms of recycling, tackling waste, and food and water security. There were some improvements on subsidies for people installing solar panels, but hardly any substantial benefits. It's deplorable.
Or am I expecting too much from Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's administration?