26 October 2016
A price hike by McDonald's is just a reflection of the one-way direction in living costs in Hong Kong. Photo: Bloomberg
A price hike by McDonald's is just a reflection of the one-way direction in living costs in Hong Kong. Photo: Bloomberg

New Year means new round of price hikes

While it’s anybody’s guess as to what lies in store for Hong Kong in 2016, there is one thing that we can be pretty sure about: our living costs are set to rise further.

Let’s start with food. 

Starting today, McDonald’s Hong Kong, for instance, has raised the price of its cheapest combo set price by a dollar to HK$23.

Well, that’s a 4.5 percent increase for something that is widely considered to be the floor price for a sit-down meal with a drink in an air-conditioned eatery.

For people eating out regularly, the additional costs could amount to quite a bit annually.

Overall, McDonald’s has raised its prices by 2.2 percent on average, probably a milder increase compared to other fast-food chains.

The world’s largest quick-service restaurant operator is offering some sweeteners this week to offset the impact of the price adjustment.

Customers can avail of a buy-one-get-one-free offer for a HK$10 hamburger for starters, which will be followed up with other special offers for small items the rest of the week.

The offers may make people feel a little better, but we still can’t help wondering why the company had to undertake price hikes even though property rentals had been adjusted downward by some landlords in the city.

It has become almost a golden rule in Hong Kong that prices will only go in direction — up.

Even if there is a downward revision, the slide is often less than one percent, as we have seen in the case of CLP Power.

The power utility stands to benefit from falling cost of fuel but has still chosen to keep most of the windfall for itself, rather than pass it on to its customers.

Airline companies are another example.

The operators lose no time in adjusting the fuel cost surcharge upward whenever there is a spike in oil prices. But when oil prices fall, the carriers are in no hurry to bring down the surcharge.

Some airlines, including Cathay Pacific, had locked in fuel contracts at high prices, and passengers are being made to pay the price for the wrong hedging bets of the carriers.

Consumers, meanwhile, also have to contend with other woes such as rising entertainment expenses. 

If you are movie buff, bear in mind that major cinema chains such as Broadway, MCL and United Artists are raising their ticket prices by HK$5.  

So a movie show at Palace IFC will now cost HK$100 per head. And if you opt for the 3D experience, be prepared to shell out as much as HK$150, as many Star Wars fans are doing now.

The news is also not good for people who prefer attractions such as theme parks and tourist spots. 

Ocean Park and Ngong Ping 360, for instance, have implemented a double-digit percentage hike in their entrance fees to make up for reduced visitor numbers from the mainland.

Ocean Park has raised the regular adult entrance fee to HK$385 from HK$345, while Ngong Ping 360 ticket has gone up to HK$185 from HK$165.

And, let’s not forget a rise in transportation costs. Tate’s Cairn Tunnel has hiked its toll fee by nearly 12 percent, while car parking lots under the Housing Authority have seen their fees raised by 4 percent on average.

Elsewhere, even Hongkong Post has revised its prices, in keeping with the general trend in the city.

Overall, if anyone had dreamt that a slowing property market will offer some respite from the price hikes, the hopes have been truly dashed.

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EJ Insight writer

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