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Budget 2024: Stamp duty scrapped to stimulate sluggish property market

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: XIA Fan、ZHAO RuntongEdited by: Junzhe JIANG、Ji Youn Lee
  • 2024-02-28

All “spicy measures” for housing will be cancelled, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in his latest budget speech on Wednesday, referring to stamp duties paid on property purchases. Known as “laat ziu” in Cantonese, spicy measures meant locals buying a second property, non-local residents and companies had to pay up to 7.5% of the original property prices, which was cut from 15% in October 2023. Additionally, people who wished to resell their property in two years had to pay up to 7.5% of the resale price.  “These stamp duties are unnecessary for the current economic and market situation,” said Chan. Leung Ka-ki, 37, a salesman at Festival Walk, is happy to see the stamp duties gone as it helps him save money to buy a property as soon as he can. “People didn’t buy properties because they had to pay the stamp duty previously,” said Kelvin Leung, senior property consultant of Midland Realty, “The cancelled cooling measures will greatly attract investors from home and around the world to buy properties in Hong Kong.” Property sales increased slightly after the government halved the stamp duty in  October, though sales have not yet reached the high earlier in 2023.  Chong Tai-leung, executive director of Lau Chor Tak Institute of Global Economics and Finance, also predicts an increase in property sales. “The immediate impact of the cancellation will be the increased volume of property transactions,” Chong said. However, buyers will still compare the return of depositing the same amount in the bank, Chong said.   Chong said the effectiveness in boosting the property market in the long term may not be that effective, as the main force driving the market down is the interest rate, which the government cannot control. Andre Wong, 45, who owns an apartment in Kowloon Tong, said he would …

Society

Budget 2024 Key Takeaways: Careful balance of revenue and deficit to continue

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: AU YEUNG Jim、AO Wei Ying VinciEdited by: Juncong SHUAI
  • 2024-02-28

Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po delivered the 2024-2025 Budget speech on Wednesday, announcing policies to strive for high-quality development while sustaining a solid economy. Top the list is the cancellations of property cooling measures, with Special Stamp Duty, Buyers’ Stamp Duty and New Residential Stamp Duty scrapped with immediate effect. For the coming fiscal year, the total government expenditure will increase by about 6.7% to HK$776.9 billion, while the total government revenue is estimated to be HK$633 billion. Chan expects that there will be a deficit of HK$48.1 billion for the year, and fiscal reserves will decrease to HK$685.1 billion. Here are the key takeaways of this year’s budget plan.  

Business

Budget 2024: People want more supplies towards new births and families with babies

  • By: Subin JOEdited by: Chi On LIU
  • 2024-02-28

People are disappointed by the lack of new policies for new births and families with babies in the latest budget speech with the problems of low birth rates and high costs in the city. Shin Yoon Jung, 37, a housewife who anticipates the birth of her child this April, expressed disappointment over this budget proposal.  "I am really disappointed that the proposal has no real benefit for a pregnant woman. I think one of the factors behind Hong Kong's low fertility rate is economic factors," Shin said. Although Hong Kong provides a subsidy for those who give birth, the financial support needs to be more adequate even for the costs of diapers and formula under the city's high cost, Shin explained. The Hong Kong SAR government announced in the last policy address that it would provide a one-time cash bonus of HK$20,000 for each baby born after Oct. 25, 2023, with parents who are Hong Kong permanent residents. Bosco Yuen, 21, a single woman, said:“ I think the economic and housing issues most affect Hong Kong people’s fertility.” “It costs more than HKD 20,000 to raise a baby. Buying baby supplies already costs a lot of money.” Yuen added As Shin's child is coming up this April, she was concerned about raising a child in Hong Kong, particularly regarding the economic aspect. Her primary worry revolves around "financial problems." "I am concerned about living with the baby in our current apartment,” Shin said. “My husband and I are looking into expanding our living space, but the thought of paying over a million dollars for a small additional room is quite burdensome." According to World Bank statistics, as of 2020, Hong Kong's total fertility rate was 0.87 births per woman, making it the second lowest among 52 Asian countries.  Korea ranked …

Society

Technology for Change Asia : new initiatives to make Hong Kong a “smarter city”

An artificial intelligence Supercomputing Centre and a Digital Policy Office will be established in Hong Kong in phases starting this year, along with more than 100 digital government initiatives to be launched. These initiatives were highlighted by the Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry, Dong Sun, in his opening speech of the 4th annual Technology for Change Asia event held yesterday, which hosted 300 solution-oriented leaders from across the world. According to Sun, AI technology is “ charting the way” in the process of technological revolution and industry transformation in a new era for Hong Kong. “The AI Supercomputing Centre will help build a resilient digital economy and a Hong Kong that is more welcoming to international investors, which will bring huge economic benefits and allow us to have a ‘Smart City’,” Sun said. “The future is all about AI”  “‘Smart City’ means that it can decide which specific problems can be solved by specific technologies,” said Atsuko Okuda, regional director of International Telecommunication Union. “The use of AI technology could contribute to productivity and help improve market efficiency,”said Tom Standage, deputy editor for The Economist. One of the examples is KUDO, the international sponsor for the event, which provides real-time translation. “What we do is enable attendees to watch full text of speeches and panel discussions content in their mother language,” said Nick Blake, head of sales at KUDO Asia-Pacific district. “Thanks to AI, we can translate more than 200 languages for meetings, training and  many other situations in Hong Kong from now on.” However, using AI as an ancillary tool for “Smart City” faces potential risks, according to Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia . “AI can convey biased or deceptive information," said Wales. "If Hong Kong wants to build a ‘Smart City’ with the help of AI, it …

Business

Budget Speech 2024 Preview: Tourists want more than free tickets under costly travel

  • By: Runqing LIEdited by: Ji Youn Lee
  • 2024-02-26

Tourists expect more favourable policies from the government than free tickets after the “Hello Hong Kong” campaign. The themed campaign was officially launched in early February 2023. Afterwards, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced the budget plan for the campaign in his 2023 budget speech as part of an effort to lure back tourists from the world and boost the local economy. Around 500,000 free air tickets were sent to tourists through local airlines, including Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong Express, and Hong Kong Airlines, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Sicily Chen, 35, a tourist from Shanghai, travelled to Hong Kong for five days during the Chinese New Year holiday because her husband won a free ticket from Cathay Pacific.  The tour cost HK$18,000 in total, including accommodation, transportation, shopping, and other daily costs for Sicily Chen’s family. Sicily Chen said the most considerable portion of expenditure is hotel accommodation expenses, followed by transportation fees. For this year’s budget speech, Sicily Chen hopes the Hong Kong Government can sell three-day or five-day transportation coupons to tourists. “I do not expect free activities again; promotional events with discounts are good enough to attract me,” Chen said. However, not every winner of the free tickets uses the opportunity. Lim Changwoo, 24, a university student in South Korea, gave up coming to Hong Kong after receiving a ticket from Cathay Pacific in October 2023 due to high accommodation expenses. “The prices are around HK$881 per night for hotels near the airport or located in the islands, and it was more expensive to live near Central,” Lim said. “If I can receive cheaper accommodations, I would be more than welcome to come.” While different promotions or holding events attract tourists, it is important for the Hong Kong Government to identify and monitor the …

Business

Education and Career Expo highlights government positions and further education

  • By: Ji Youn LeeEdited by: Chi On LIU、Junzhe JIANG
  • 2024-01-29

Attracting more than 800 booths, The Hong Kong Education and Career Expo addressed civil servant positions, featured job openings from private institutions, and provided further study opportunities as a burst for applicants seeking government and commercial sector jobs and a boost of studying abroad. The three-day expo was held from Jan.25, bringing more than 3,000 job openings from 16 countries and 17 regions to the participants.  To help the participants better understand the government’s jobs, the series talk on “Careers in the Government” became one of the most popular stands at the event.  “Hong Kong government, which is the biggest employer in Hong Kong, offers more than 190,000 full-time jobs for those willing to work hard and keep learning to achieve success,” said Ingrid Yueng, Secretary for the Civil Service.  Correspondingly, applications for civil service jobs increased sharply. The applicants for Customs officers surged by 90%, with a 40% increase for Immigration officers since October, according to Yueng. Tiffany Cheung, 23, a fresh graduate from a local university, said the government’s talks during the expo were very insightful for her future career path.   “I can ask questions regarding the application process and job content here, so I think [this event] is quite helpful,” Cheung said. “The talks are quite clear, and the speaker made the content of the position very clear. It matches my expectations regarding the role.”  The unemployment rate in Hong Kong from October to December of 2023 was 2.9%, which resumed at the pre-pandemic level in 2019, according to government data. However, Sandy Cheung, a final-year history student at Hong Kong Baptist University, said finding a job proved difficult because there are few opportunities in Hong Kong for her major.  “My history major limits my career prospects, and many of my friends consider teaching or working at …

Business

Government recruitment and vocational training booths spotlight Education and Careers Expo

Last week’s Education and Careers Expo at the Exhibition Centre highlighted government job offerings and employment training as the city hopes to retain young talents and boost the local workforce. Among the 123 exhibitors at the expo, 32 of them were government departments and bureaus present at the event, which aimed to introduce visitors to job opportunities through exhibitions, sharing sessions and interactive activities. “As the largest employer in Hong Kong, offering over 190,000 full-time jobs in the civil service alone, the government has a wide range of opportunities for those who are willing and ready to work hard and keep learning to achieve success,” said Ingrid Yeung, Secretary for the Civil Service, at the opening ceremony of the Expo. Various government departments also held information and sharing sessions throughout the expo, such as the Civil Service Bureau for the legal aid department. “I’ve had more opportunities to ask questions regarding the job content, interview and selection criteria, so I think [the Expo] is quite helpful to me,” said Tiffany Cheung, 23, a fresh university graduate looking for a job in the government. “I think [the information session] is quite clear, and the speaker made very clear about the content of the position. It matches my expectation regarding the role.”   Apart from recruitment booths, many schools for continuing education and vocational training  introduced education programs and showcased new innovations that could streamline existing work methods. One example was the Smart Chinese Medicine Cabinet, a Chinese medicine pharmaceutical box which aims to streamline the collection of ingredients for Chinese medicine recipes using sensor technology. By scanning the QR code, the display modules on each drawer would light up and show the ingredients required for the pharmacists to collect. The cabinet is part of the Vocational Training Council’s health and life …

Business

New ESG platform aims to benefit local firms

  • By: YANG Haicen、BO ChuxuanEdited by: Ji Youn Lee、KONG Tsz Yuen
  • 2024-01-25

A new eco-community-based platform aimed to help small to medium size enterprises realise their sustainability goals  launched on Jan. 22. The platform, ESG One, was unveiled at ForeSight 2024, an annual event organised by the Hong Kong Productivity Council. “The newly launched ESG One is an ecosphere that provides guidance and services and enables SMEs to share information and resources at all levels,” said Mohamed Butt, the Chief Executive Officer of the HKPC in his opening speech at ForeSight 2024. “ESG is now crucial for corporate strategy and a key indicator of a company's value and prospects in today's business environment,” he added. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange, has been actively promoting Environmental, Social, and Governance, in its bid to make the city a green finance trading centre.  On its website, HKEx states its policy of enhancing “ the transparency of sustainable financial products, improving supply information and opening up opportunities to promote the development of sustainable finance in Asia.” Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Joseph Chan Ho-lim said SMEs have not yet reaped the full benefits of these ESG initiatives. He said "SMEs would face numerous obstacles in implementing ESG, such as a lack of resources, especially after the three-year epidemic." As of September 2023, over 360,000 small and medium-sized enterprises operated in Hong Kong, making up over 98% of all business establishments in the region and creating jobs for over 1.2 million people, according to the government. In this context, encouraging ESG practices among SMEs is crucial to the region's long-term economic viability, according to Butt. At the forum, leaders from different industries discussed and exchanged ideas on how to promote ESG practices in SMEs. Law Ka-chun, the President of China Light and Power Company Syndicate, suggested uniting Hong Kong's forces to help SMEs reduce …

Business

Taiwan Stock Exchange has no plan for virtual currency ETF

  • By: Junzhe JIANGEdited by: Junzhe JIANG
  • 2024-01-12

Taiwan Stock Exchange doesn’t plan for virtual currency ETFs at the current stage based on the incomplete regulation of virtual currency after the first approval of spot Bitcoin ETFs by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. “Although we are focusing on promoting ETF-related products now, we still need the government to make related regulations about the virtual currency,” said Yang Shin-Yin, Senior associate of corporate planning and Strategy Department from TWSE. The US SEC allowed 11 spot bitcoin ETF products to come into the market on Wednesday. After the statement, the price of Bitcoin rose about 3% to about US$ 47,000 (about HK$ 347,474.6) and recorded US$ 46,354.79 (about HK$ 362,577.9 ) at the close. Taiwan's ETF assets have grown by 12.83 times in the last decade and increased about 60.47% in the past year with Asia's Top 3 ETF market, according to the Taiwan Stock Exchange website. Crypto assets, including Bitcoin, are not considered legal currency in most parts of the world, including Taiwan. The US SEC emphasised that the approval of Bitcoin ETFs does not imply their endorsement of Bitcoin. "While we approved the listing and trading of certain spot bitcoin ETP shares today," said the US SEC in a statement, "we did not approve or endorse bitcoin. Investors should remain cautious about the myriad risks associated with bitcoin and products whose value is tied to crypto.”

Business

HKMA Investment Summit 2023: Hong Kong-mainland bonds to strengthen despite economic woes

  • By: Junzhe JIANG、Juncong SHUAIEdited by: Rex Cheuk、Bella Ding
  • 2023-11-08

Hong Kong government officials and Chinese financial regulators said this Tuesday that the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland will deepen despite a sluggish financial market that haunts China’s precarious economic revitalisation.  The Global Financial Leaders Investment Summit, a flagship event hosted by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, welcomed about 300 business leaders from around the world, including Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Blackstone.  “We continue to deepen our economic and financial ties with the mainland and, in particular, with the Greater Bay Area,” said Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, adding that there will be far-reaching opportunities. Apart from measures aimed at reviving the housing and stock markets, Lee said support from the mainland is also important for Hong Kong's economic growth. The value of listings for the past nine months stood at US$3.13 billion on the Hong Kong main board. It is a 65% slump compared with last year, hitting a 20-year low. Wang Jianjun, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, pledged that Beijing “will make it easier for mainland enterprises to come to list in Hong Kong”. HKEX approved the listing of Cainiao on the main board earlier in September, which is expected to be the world’s second-largest initial public offering this year.  Eddie Yue, the Chief Executive of the HKMA, said the pace of economic recovery, the sluggish property market, and local government debt on the mainland remain of concern to global investors. Investors have expressed hesitation on whether they should invest in China’s market because of the liquidity crisis of major realtors such as Country Garden and Evergrande Group over the past few months. However, Zhang Qingsong, Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, remains confident about China’s economy.  “China’s investment in research and development reached over three trillion yuan in 2022, ranking …