An alliance of Hong Kong's real estate agencies withheld advertising from the media yesterday in protest at the higher stamp duty imposed by the government to curb property speculation. Urging the government to scrap stamp duties on commercial properties, Pierre Wong, Managing Director of Midland Realty, said on TVB news last night: "We don't think the commercial market affects most Hong Kong people".
He has got to be joking (cue incredulous John McEnroe tones here), because this remark is utter nonsense. Commercial property prices form a major component of the operating costs of every shop, restaurant, warehouse or other business in Hong Kong. Consequently they affect the price of all the goods and services purchased in Hong Kong, giving them a direct and powerful impact on every Hong Kong person's cost of living. Has Wong not seen all the media coverage of businesses catering to local people (including estate agents) being forced out of operation by rising rents and replaced by luxury goods shops catering to mainland visitors?
It doesn't say much for the professionalism of the real estate business here that the head of one of the largest agencies has such a simplistic and inaccurate (and, it should be said, self-serving) view of the local property market. Consequently, while the industry is trying to arouse public sympathy for its job losses arising from the government's bizarre attempts to reduce property prices by making property more expensive to buy, most Hong Kong people are likely to show little concern if the entire parasitical real estate business goes down the drain.