Hong Kong’s outgoing leader, Leung Chun-ying, has expressed doubts about the housing plans and targets outlined by John Tsang, one of the key contenders in the March chief executive election.
The housing goals put forth by Tsang are unrealistic, Leung suggested, adding to the debate over Tsang’s election campaign pledges.
Tsang, who resigned as financial secretary to join the race for Hong Kong’s top job, said on Monday that he aims to boost the ratio of Hongkongers living in public housing to 60 percent if he becomes the next CE.
He said he’ll try to achieve the goal through more-efficient land use and redevelopment of old public housing estates.
While the pledge was welcomed by many people, his former boss Leung feels it is not a feasible target.
Ahead of an Executive Council meeting Tuesday, Leung told reporters that the “60 percent” is hard to achieve even if the government develops all available land plots into public housing and sells none to private developers.
Housing prices and rents in general will only go higher if the government really does so, added Leung, who sees Tsang’s plan as a major change from the government’s current housing strategy.
Pouring cold water on Tsang’s plans, the chief executive called for detailed explanation on the proposed targets.
In response, Tsang said later in the day that his 60 percent goal is a long-term one and not something that can be achieved within just five years.
Clarifying his campaign pledges, Tsang said the public housing he referred to includes both public rental flats and units that can be purchased under the subsidized Home Ownership Scheme.
The goal, if realized, will help ensure a more stable society, the CE hopeful said.
Leung Chi-kin, chairman of the executive committee of the Real estate Developers Association and a senior consultant to the campaign team of Carrie Lam, Tsang’s main rival in the upcoming election, said in a sarcastic tone that setting a goal is one thing but achieving it is another.
Agreeing that Tsang’s plan can only be realized in the long term, Cheung Sing-din, head of business valuation at real estate service firm Icon City, said it will be a more balanced route if government policy can help people living in subsidized homes make the transition to private homes.
Lam, meanwhile, has criticized Tsang’s planned tax reform regarding introduction of progressive tax on capital gains and negative income tax.
As both taxes had been rejected by the government several times, it is apparent that they are not feasible, but Tsang seems to insist that they are suited to the times, Lam said.
Kwan Siu-lun, a pan-democratic member of the Election Committee’s Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sub-sector, said Tsang may not gain his team’s 16 votes to be shortlisted in the CE race if Tsang fails to promise that he will relaunch political reform without any preconditions.
Tsang also needs to assure that any legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which deals with national security, will happen only after universal suffrage becomes a reality in the city, Kwan said.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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