Strong dollar may mean it's time to leave home

July 31, 2015 17:44
It may be a good idea to migrate to Canada, given the cheaper currency, wider spaces and fresher air and water. Photo: Bloomberg

Many from my peer group who studied overseas but came back to work here over the past 20 years have been asking the same question of late: Is it time to leave Hong Kong?

They realize how much foreign currencies had lost in the past year, and together with the property gains in the city, there seems to be, to borrow a financial jargon, an arbitrage opportunity because the Hong Kong dollar is linked to the US currency.

I noticed that the Canadian dollar was down 20 percent over the past 18 months, while the city residential price index was up 20 percent in the same period.

What I'm trying to say is that one will probably feel like tycoon Li Ka-shing if one decides to follow in his footsteps and reorganise his assets, cashing out of here and buying out there with at least 40 percent more consumption power.

This has something to do with Fed chair Janet Yallen's strong dollar policy and, to a lesser extent, Leung Chun-ying's failure to keep the housing market from rising to stratospheric levels.

Because of the strong dollar, I also notice that HK$5 million translates into over C$800,000, which will be enough for one to afford a 2,000 square foot house with a furnished basement in some convivial neighborhoods in Toronto.

I don't bear any grudges against Cheung Sha Wan, but just for the sake of comparison, HK$5 million can only fetch a 500 sq ft, two-bedroom apartment from the Housing Society.

Besides, in Toronto, one can use tap water without worrying about its lead content.

More importantly, it is a place that respects academic integrity, where universities make appropriate appointments without engaging in ugly showdowns like the one we saw in the University of Hong Kong.

The continued strength of the US dollar will also probably lure people into investing in properties in Sydney, where I have a good friend who is still looking for a house auction for almost a year now.

I am not sure if I would continue sitting pretty in Hong Kong if the Canadian dollar kept falling until it reaches one to HK$5, a level not seen since the '90s.

Of course, employment is always the first issue. But if you can find a job, or a second career, or if you happen to be a freelancer that isn't bound by geographical location, why not give it a try?

If you have kids, you should seriously think about moving to Canada because of its superior school system and greater international exposure as the world gets smaller.

I hate to repeat a common phrase I used to hear in Canada: "Hey, you Hong Kong people are so lucky to be here."

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EJ Insight writer