Date
20 July 2018
Professor Ceajer Chan Ka-keung paid HK$33.93 million for a 1,404-square-foot unit and two parking spots at Amber Garden in Mid-Levels. Photo: Bloomberg/Internet
Professor Ceajer Chan Ka-keung paid HK$33.93 million for a 1,404-square-foot unit and two parking spots at Amber Garden in Mid-Levels. Photo: Bloomberg/Internet

KC Chan disregards own warnings about property market risks

It seems Professor Ceajer Chan Ka-keung, despite his scholarly background, is not dogmatic at all about his own precepts.

The former secretary for financial services and the Treasury disregarded his own advice about the property market and decided to spend years of hard-earned savings on a Mid-Levels home.

Last month, the 60-year-old former minister who left his government post after serving for 10 years, paid HK$33.93 million for a 1,404-square-foot unit and two parking spots at Amber Garden, a 36-year-old estate.

He was immediately ridiculed by the local press, which reminded him of his constant warnings about the risks of buying property in Hong Kong.

In his farewell media briefing six months ago, Chan warned that home prices in Hong Kong, one of the world’s most expensive housing markets, had risen to a level beyond general affordability, and a correction would come once interest rates started to rise and more supply came on board.

Last month, he cautioned people to be always aware of how much they could afford to pay in the booming property market, especially those who relied on their parents for the down payment.

Now it appears that Chan, who made a smooth transition from a self-effacing economic professor to a high-profile senior government official, has spent his entire income over the past decade to realize his home purchase.

Before his departure from government service in June, he was making around HK$4 million every year, and the few times he got a raise, his pay was only adjusted for inflation.

But Chan refused to retract his earlier statement on the property market. He told reporters on Wednesday that his home purchase was for self-use and he had no recourse but to take the risk.

His timing, though, is poor. It came just before Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen announced a third rate hike for this year and indicated that there will be three more next year.

Of course, we don’t expect a senior government official like Chan to use his access to sensitive financial information for his own gain.

But just imagine the savings he could have made if he had bought his Mid-Levels flat before his term began in 2007. The seller in the transaction bought the unit for only HK$7.5 million in 2003.

Chan could only admire his colleague Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, the former secretary of transport and housing, who paid HK$16 million for his home at The Paramount in Tai Po. That unit, based on online mortgage valuation, is now worth HK$23 million.

Well, there’s a price to pay for serving in the government. Remember the complaint of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor earlier this year? She said she could only afford a three-bedroom unit in the boondocks of the New Territories with her savings.

Now it’s Professor Chan’s turn for a rude awakening, despite his sober views about the risks in the property market.

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CG

EJ Insight writer

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