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Despite politics and coronavirus, Hong Kong’s enduring love affair with real estate

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By Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong is showing that its affinity for real estate has been unaffected by a year of anti-government protests and concerns over the coronavirus, with a large housing project launched this month registering the highest response in over two decades.

When the Pavilia Farm development in the New Territories district opened for subscription, eager buyers stocked up on food and water as they prepared for a long wait at the end of a snaking queue where signs read: “Expected waiting time: 8 hours.”

The project, attractively priced and close to the busy Kowloon district, received close to 23,000 subscriptions for its first 391 units. When completed in late 2022 it will have 3,000 apartments.

All 391 units were sold, the developer said on Sunday night, adding more units would be launched soon.

Realtors said the take-up at Pavilia was the strongest in more than 20 years in one of the world’s most expensive property markets and matched the frenzy seen at the time of the 1997 handover of the former British colony to China.

But it comes after social upheaval in the past year over China’s plans to introduce a national security law in Hong Kong, which has led many investors to question the future of the global financial hub.

However, Hong Kong’s home prices dropped just 4% since a peak in May last year before the outbreak of protests and the spread of the coronavirus, supported by strong demand, a severe land shortage and low interest rates. This followed a six-fold rise in the index of private home prices since 2003.

“The property market has accumulated over a year of demand since the social movement last June; the monthly transaction volume has been lower than usual,” said Richard Lee, CEO of realtor Hong Kong Property Services.

“People’s confidence has come back after seeing (residential) prices have stayed resilient even during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Property consultancy Knight Frank’s executive director Thomas Lam said, however, the real estate market will continue to be under pressure in an economy under recession and with high unemployment. He said he expected home prices will fall around 5% this year before getting stable next year.

“Now the property market is very ‘deformed’; home prices remain high but…commercial and shop rents and prices are falling non-stop,” Lam said.

LOCATION, PRICING

Pavilia Farm is being built by New World Development 0017.HK> and MTR Corp. 0066.HK> above the Tai Wai railway station, on the train line into Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, and will have a large shopping mall in its lower floors.

On one of the early days of the launch, organisers stopped people queuing from 11.30 am local time (0330 GMT) as lines extended from a show flat to a footbridge outside despite social distancing concerns.

Buyers said they were unconcerned about the exodus of residents following the protests last year as well as the possibility of a crash in prices.

Grace Wong, a 40-year-old fitness trainer, said she wanted to buy a one-bedroom home for investment, although if prices dropped she said she would live in it herself.

Wong said she’s staying in Hong Kong because she’s single and doesn’t have to worry about the future of any children.

“(Otherwise) I’d choose to migrate elsewhere and not buy a property here,” she said. “I’m not young any more; if I don’t buy a property now it’ll be more difficult to secure a mortgage in the future.”

Property agents said Pavilia Farm’s pricing was around 10% lower than nearby developments, making it attractive to buyers who have been waiting for opportunities.

“The overwhelming response for this project demonstrates a rebound in the Hong Kong property sector and confidence from home buyers who are in search of high quality properties as the new normal settles in,” Edward Lau, deputy chief financial officer of New World, told Reuters.

Candy Lau, 26, who works in the consumer industry, said she was also confident about Hong Kong’s property market. She said she expects it to remain stable or rise slightly in the near future and had signed up to buy a one-bedroom apartment in Pavilia and rent it out.

“Property is still a better way of capital conservation. There’s limited investment channels right now; equity is volatile,” Lau said.

(Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source:- The Guardian

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Politics Briefing: Murray Sinclair to resign from Senate – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Senator Murray Sinclair says he’s ready to retire.

Mr. Sinclair announced this afternoon that he will step down from his position representing Manitoba in the Red Chamber in January, when he turns 70.

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Mr. Sinclair is one of Canada’s most respected jurists, the second Indigenous judge in Canadian history and the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which delivered its landmark report in 2015 that included 94 calls for action to the federal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has committed to meet all 94 calls, appointed Mr. Sinclair to the Senate in 2016.

Mr. Sinclair told The Globe he still hopes to be a voice on the national stage, even if he is leaving Parliament Hill.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Mr. Trudeau says that even if Canada will not be among the first country to receive vaccines against COVID-19, Canadians should instead focus on the fact that most of the country could be inoculated against the virus by next fall.

The Liberal government will table its fall economic statement on Monday, which will give Canadians some idea of how large the deficit is. A C.D. Howe report suggests the government could dig its way out of debt again if it raised the GST.

Liberal and Conservative MPs shut down the pleas of the Canadian relatives of Boeing 737 Max crash victims for a public inquiry into the plane’s safety.

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Eric Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP, pressed the Liberal government on why they haven’t followed through with election promises to end the ban on gay men giving blood.

And Ingenium, the Crown corporation that runs Canada’s national science museums, has a new acquisition: a bottle of billion-year-old water, which was discovered at the bottom of a mine near Timmins, Ont. “It’s a credit to our spirits that despite these challenging times, we can continue doing science and doing really, really cool things like getting a hold of a water sample that’s a billion years old,” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said.

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on vaccine nationalism: “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating is more than 14 points higher than it was this time last year, despite a tumultuous summer of scandal and enduring delays by the federal government to deliver programs such as comprehensive rapid COVID-19 testing at airports. That congeniality will run out, however, if and when Canadians are forced to watch peer nations start vaccinating their citizens while this country effectively remains in lockdown.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the vaccine challenges ahead: “At any rate, hold on – it can only get worse. Even assuming Health Canada parts with the habits of a lifetime and approves the first vaccine more or less simultaneously with its U.S. and European counterparts, and even assuming the vaccines can be shipped to Canada in advance of approval, and stored (in super-cold conditions) until then, that still leaves the ultimate logistical nightmare: getting them into the arms of millions of Canadians, safely and speedily.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on why the city of Ottawa has fared better in the pandemic than Toronto: “The capital may be, as the late Allan Fotheringham called it, the town that fun forgot, but it is also a town filled with well-educated people in white-collar jobs who mostly live in suburbs, work from home, and drive cars. That may not be a very exciting description of a city, but in a pandemic, it’s the place you want to be.”

Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed (Montreal Gazette) on the next few months: “This winter will be like no other. We need to be proactive in combatting isolation, seasonal depression and loneliness, which will only be exacerbated by the long, dark days ahead.”

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Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on battling COVID-19 fatigue: “No longer do we gush over cool scientists who wear Fluevog shoes and periodic table dresses. They’ve started to sound like mom. I love my mom; she is the best. She reminds me daily to take my vitamins. I confess, I’ve tuned her out too.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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OPINION | The politics behind Jason Kenney's 'tepid' response to COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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This column is an opinion from political scientists Duane Bratt, of Mount Royal University, and Lisa Young, of the University of Calgary.

Jason Kenney is a shrewd and experienced politician.

He has years of experience as a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government, and was instrumental in helping Harper win a majority in 2011. Returning to Alberta politics, he successfully merged the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties and won a resounding victory in the 2019 provincial election.

And yet, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, he and his government are floundering.

Alberta has the largest absolute number of COVID cases in Canada, despite having the fourth largest population. For 10 days in mid-November, Kenney did not appear in public despite rapidly increasing case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.

Eight months into the pandemic, his cabinet had to meet for eight hours to devise responses that many dismissed as inadequate. And most recently, a public servant has taken the unusual move of leaking information to journalists to highlight the growing divide between the Kenney government and its chief medical officer of health. 

Opinion polling shows that the Kenney government is paying a price for its handling of the pandemic.

Even in the early days of COVID-19, it was noticeable that the Kenney government missed out on the “COVID bump” that most other political leaders enjoyed. This was despite the fact that, in many ways, the Alberta government had responded effectively to the first wave.

But unlike other provincial governments, Kenney and his cabinet were engaged in a very public fight with doctors at a time when the public was banging pots and pans in appreciation of front-line workers.

Not taking a lesson from this, the government engaged in a broader dispute with health-care workers through the fall, and its poll numbers continued to drop.

A slide in public support

Last week, Leger reported that only 37 per cent of Albertans believed that their provincial government was handling COVID-19 well; the lowest, by far, of any province. Then, ThinkHQ reported that 81 per cent of Albertans would support a province-wide mask mandate.

It is unlikely that the measures announced on Nov. 24 will reverse, or even halt, this slide in public support.

How did a skilled politician like Kenney end up in this situation? We offer a few hypotheses. 

First, Kenney is almost certainly concerned about an electoral split on the right. Public opinion on appropriate responses to COVID is split along partisan lines, with those further to the right more resistant to mandatory measures.

Common Ground Politics survey research conducted in Alberta in August found that UCP voters were more likely than others to think that the reopening was too slow. A national survey conducted by Vox Pop found that Conservative voters were less likely to wear masks.

WATCH | Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announces new COVID-19 restrictions for Alberta

Premier Jason Kenney outlined the new mandatory restrictions coming into effect, including a ban on all indoor social gatherings. 2:35

In his comments on Tuesday, the premier focused a great deal of attention on acknowledging the concerns of those on the right, who argue that restrictions are unconstitutional, for example. 

The Alberta separatist (or “Wexit”) movement has gained momentum since the 2019 federal election and Justin Trudeau’s re-election.

With his experience merging conservative parties at both the federal and provincial level, the premier is presumably concerned about vote splitting on the right. By appeasing conservatives, especially in rural Alberta, Kenney is consolidating his base.

With 41 of the 87 seats in the Alberta legislature outside of Edmonton and Calgary, consolidating that base makes electoral sense.

The restrictions that were announced on Tuesday, and the exemptions that were offered, lend support to this hypothesis.

Certainly, the decision to extend mask mandates only in Calgary and Edmonton (where they were already required through municipal bylaws) speaks to a desire to please conservative rural voters.

Similarly, the decision to permit in-person religious services to continue while junior high and high schools had to close speaks to a desire to keep voters in conservative-leaning faith communities onside. 

Response informed by ideology

Second, Kenney and many of his close advisors are strong partisans prone to demonizing their political opponents.

Although Alberta has elected conservative governments for decades, we have to go back to the Social Credit governments of the 1950s and 1960s to find a more ideologically conservative government than the current UCP. Although Ralph Klein’s government was driven by fiscal conservatism in its early years, its policies moderated in later years. 

The Kenney government’s strong ideological conservatism has informed its pandemic response, particularly since the end of the spring lockdown.

The government’s approach has been to emphasize personal responsibility rather than implementing restrictions.

Citing the economic cost of the lockdown, Kenney has repeatedly minimized the toll of the pandemic while emphasizing the negative consequences of restrictions on the economy broadly, and small business in particular.

This helps to explain why restaurants, bars, casinos, movie theatres and gyms are permitted to remain open, although with some further restrictions.

While other conservative provincial governments — notably Ontario and Manitoba — are placing greater restrictions on retail, Alberta is not. 

WATCH | University of Alberta’s Tim Caulfield says the province needs a transparent approach to pandemic policy

Tim Caulfield, an expert in health law at the University of Alberta, says the province needs  a co-ordinated and transparent approach when making policy around the coronavirus. 5:40

Third, having been elected on a mandate of “jobs, economy, pipelines,” the Kenney government remains focused on economic performance.

Its promise of balanced budgets are, of course, no longer feasible, but the government remains deeply concerned about the province’s balance sheet. This helps to explain the decision to push forward on cost savings in the public sector — including health-care — during the pandemic, as well as decisions that prioritize the economy. 

These three explanations — electoral considerations, ideology, and a focus on the economy — have resulted in a pandemic response that looks weak when compared to other provinces.

This is a moment that tests political leaders, requiring them to set aside political considerations in favour of the public good. Lives are at stake.

As the death toll continues to rise, the government’s tepid response will come under greater public scrutiny, and the political calculations that have informed it will appear increasingly out of touch.

If the Kenney government is unable to adjust to these new realities, it may pay a steep political price in 2023, as the electorate holds it accountable for both the economic and human cost of the pandemic.


This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read our FAQ.

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'The Great Reset', politics and conspiracy – CBC.ca

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  • 8 hours ago
  • Radio
  • 23:59

Last week, after a video of one of his speeches went viral, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to address a growing controversy over “The Great Reset”.

The term means different things to different people. To the World Economic Forum it’s a vague goal to make the world more equal and address climate change in the wake of the pandemic. To Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre it’s evidence of a “power grab” by “global financial elites”.

And to others, it’s part of a baseless and wide-ranging conspiracy theory. CBC senior writer Aaron Wherry has been covering this story in Ottawa. Today he helps us sort the real economics and politics at play… from the conspiracy gaining traction.

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