英文

下一篇

Editorial﹕Too early to talk about easing property market tough measures

【明報專訊】THE property market is cooling down. The official housing price index has fallen for two consecutive months. Some market participants think that the property market is turning around and demand that the government ease the tough measures. Over the past ten years, property prices in Hong Kong have more than doubled. People in Hong Kong simply cannot afford to buy flats anymore. The fall in property prices in the past two to three months has not been significant. Any reckless talk about easing the tough measures at this stage will only send the public a wrong signal. Instead of easing the measures immediately when property prices fall, one should look at the original purpose of the tough measures before talking about easing them. The government should manage market expectations by being scientific and transparent about how decisions are made on when and how to ease the measures. It should also explain the specific indicators and factors that will be used to decide when is the best time to ease the measures and state clearly that the government will not be pressurised by the industry into making any decisions.

Hong Kong's economy has been "hijacked" by the property market. Any drastic fall in the property market will undoubtedly affect Hong Kong's economy. However, it does not mean that the government must prop up the market whenever property prices fall. It is necessary to get back to basics whenever there is any discussion about easing the measures. In view of the property market's upward cycle, the government has introduced counter-cyclical measures many times over the past nine years. These measures include tightening mortgage rules substantially and introducing the Special Stamp Duty and the Double Stamp Duty. After the financial tsunami, many countries were printing money to stimulate their economies. This resulted in the overflow of hot money and asset bubbles around the world. This was why the government introduced the counter-cyclical measures in the first place. However, apart from speculative activities, a more important reason for soaring property prices is the serious shortage of housing.

The recent downturn of the property market is mainly due to the Sino-US trade war, foreign stock market fluctuations and Hong Kong's prime lending rate being raised for the first time in 12 years. The downturn has not been due to any fundamental changes in the imbalance between the demand for and supply of housing. Should the trade war abate soon, market sentiments will improve and it is possible for the property market to stop falling and stabilise soon. Unless the market experiences a crash-like fall, the government should not consider easing the tough measures substantially because it may give the market a wrong signal and result in the property market heating up again.

Introducing a new measure is easy; lifting it is hard. It is never easy to identify the right moment to lift a measure or withdraw from the market. The key is to have proper criteria, indicators and procedures so that the market and the public can be sufficiently prepared psychologically. There must also be a set of indicators. The government must not make any decisions simply based on how it feels or because of pressure from the industry.

Regarding when and how the tough measures should be eased, instead of only tracking property prices, the government can consider a series of indicators, such as the number of negative equity cases and the housing affordability ratio (i.e. the ratio of mortgage payment to median income of households). To be able to respond flexibly, it is hard for the government to put down in black and white what the conditions and indicators are for easing the measures. However, to manage market expectations and prevent any wild guesses or speculation, the government may explain to the public the overall direction it will take. What the government must not do now is to ease the measures rashly and encourage the public to enter the market when the market trend is unclear and the interest rate has begun normalising.

明報社評2018.11.22﹕樓市減辣言之尚早 政府須有科學準則

樓市降溫,官方樓價指數連跌兩月,有市場人士認為樓市已經轉勢,要求政府放寬樓市辣招。過去10年本港樓價上升超過一倍,與市民負擔能力完全脫節,過去兩三個月樓價回落,調整幅度有限,現階段輕言減辣,只會向市民發出錯誤信息。談減辣必須先認清辣招原來目標,並非一見樓價下跌就減辣。政府需要管理好市場預期,何時減辣、如何減辣,決策過程必須科學透明,當局應說清楚會根據哪些具體指標和因素衡量減辣時機,不會因為業界壓力下決定。

本港經濟遭房地產「綁架」,樓市大跌無疑會影響經濟,然而不代表政府一見到樓價下挫就要托市。討論減辣問題,應該回歸基本。過去9年,政府因應樓市上升周期,多次推出逆周期措施,包括大幅收緊各類物業按揭、推出額外印花稅和雙倍印花稅等。金融海嘯後多國刺激經濟大舉印鈔,導致熱錢氾濫,谷起全球資產泡沫,是最初政府推出逆周期措施的原因,然而本港樓價愈飈愈高,除了因為投機炒作,更大程度是由於房屋供應嚴重不足。

近期樓市回軟,主因是中美貿易戰、外圍股市動盪,以及香港12年來首度上調最優惠利率,並非因為房屋供求失衡出現根本改變。倘若中美貿易戰短期內得以緩和,市場氣氛改善,不排除樓市很快止跌回穩。除非樓市崩潰式暴跌,否則政府不應該考慮大舉撤辣,以免向市場發出錯誤信息,令樓市再度升溫。

出招容易撤招難,準確把握撤招退市時機從不容易,關鍵是要有準則、有指標、有步驟,讓市場和公眾有充分心理準備。港府考慮是否撤辣,亦應該有一籃子指標,不能憑感覺又或因為業界壓力而下決定。

政府何時減辣、如何減辣,不應僅僅盯住樓價,還可考慮一系列指標,諸如負資產宗數、市民置業購買力指數(即按揭供款相對住戶入息中位數比率)等。為了保留應變彈性,政府很難將減辣條件和指標說得太死,然而當局可以向公眾交代大方向,做好市場預期管理,以免外界捕風捉影,妄作揣測。現時當局最不應該做的,就是在樓市走勢未明、利率正常化起步之際,貿然減辣鼓勵市民入市。

■Glossary

drastic﹕extreme in a way that has a sudden, serious or violent effect on sth

prop up sth﹕to help sth that is having difficulties

wild﹕not carefully planned; not sensible or accurate

上 / 下一篇新聞