Business

Business

Lunar New Year Fair stall auctions less bustle amid pandemic uncertainty

The two-day auction for Hong Kong's Victoria Park 2021 Lunar New Year Fair stalls that ended on Nov. 17 received a cold reception as pandemic's uncertainty looms over the city. Only 175 wet goods stalls selling flowers are available for auction this year, with six left unsold. Officials have banned dry goods stalls which sell handicrafts and toys, as well as snack stalls due to health concerns. Hong Kong's largest Lunar New Year market used to have around 300 dry goods stalls and three food stalls. "I'm confident about the market this year," said Lau Hoi-to, who has attended the fair for more than 40 years selling peach blossom, "It's culture. Chinese people always buy flowers on Lunar New Year." Mr Lau successfully bid for 22 stalls for the coming fair beginning on Feb.6 and lasting for six days. The single highest bid is HK$50,000, about nine times higher than the starting price HK$5,440. The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department halved the opening price for all bids from last year because of the city's economic downturn. The total revenue of the auction is about HK$2.5 million, increasing by 60% compared to the previous year.   Ha Fang-fang, an orchid vendor, successfully bid for one spot. She hoped the government could soon normalize cargo transportation procedures between Hong Kong's border with mainland China. Under the pandemic, cross-boundary goods vehicles can only enter the nine cities of the Greater Bay Area and need to return the same day.  "It'll be much more convenient then," Ms Ha said, "But I'm still confident about the fair. I expect local people will still come and buy our flower." Still, Ms Ha expressed her worries that there will be less people around in the fair due to the pandemic  The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said all …

Business

Policy Address 20/21: Carrie Lam rolls out real estate measures, limited impact expected for most

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced a series of long term housing measures on relieving the financial burden of enterprises and boosting housing supply, as announced in her 4th policy address today. Mrs Lam said that the double stamp duty on non-residential property transactions would be revoked from tomorrow, 26 November to benefit the property owners immediately. The measure is expected to facilitate the sale of non-residential properties to meet financial problems arising from the economic downturn. Hong Kong real estate experiences a contraction in the rental market this year, with the rent index decreased by 9.4% in September compared with the same period last year.  Brilliant Properties Limited, a small-scale property company is one of the suffering businesses in the pandemic. "Tenants could not afford the rent while owners are not willing to lower the price," said Cheuk Shik-kong, 60, owner of Brilliant Properties Limited. "Therefore, contracts were terminated," he added. Mr Cheuk also said, the overall revenue of his company has dropped by 30 to 40% compared to the figures last year. Much as the government would like to invigorate the real estate market with the abolishment of double stamp duty tax, property agencies considered it as an ineffective approach. "The impact will not be significant," said Lam Wai-cheung, 43, she has been working at Cheong Shing Property for three years. "I believe the measure will have certain effects on the buying and selling of stores but it will not be obvious until the pandemic comes to an end," she added. "Many buyers have the financial ability and intention to purchase commercial properties. What halts them from making the trade happen is not the price, but the pandemic situation," Ms Lam said. However, Li Ching, 55, a real estate agent at Cheong Shing Property, has a more …

Society

Policy Address 20/21: Property agents welcome but remain skeptical towards commercial property tax abolition

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Cora Zhu、Vikki Cai、Yuri KwokEdited by: KawaiWong、Olivia Tam
  • 2020-11-25

The city's leader announced today to abolish tax for commercial properties, real estate agents express positive attitudes towards the policy but some of them cast doubt on its effectiveness due to the uncertain investment environment under COVID-19. In her fourth annual policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government will abolish the Double Stamp Duty (DSD) on commercial property to facilitate businesses to cash out by selling non-residential real estate so to stay afloat during the economic downturn. The policy will take effect tomorrow. "As a result of the economic downturn and uncertainities surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, prices and demand for non-residential properties have been dropping over a period of time," said Ms Lam. "The government considers now the right time to abolish the DSD imposed on non-residential properties." Hong Kong saw its Q3 GDP decrease by 3.5% in real term on a year-on-year basis. For the net output in the real estate, professional, and business services sector, it decreased by 5.9% in real terms in 2020 Q2 from a year earlier, following a decline of 4.6% in Q1, according to the Census and Statistics Department. The DSD, formally known as the Doubled Ad Valorem Stamp Duty, was first introduced in February 2013 to deal with the surging prices of commercial properties. The rates range from 4.25% to 8.5% depending on different asset prices.  Lau Kin-ling, 59, a real estate agent said the abolishment of commercial property tax is helpful for the market but it is hard to predict the effectiveness.  "The policy may not attract a considerable amount of mainland investors since the borders remain closed," said Ms Lau. "The major factor for buyers to purchase a commercial property is field visit so that they can access the actual environment, simply presenting an advertising video would …

Business

Local tourism emerges as a cross-border travel stops

The tourism industry has been devastated since the outbreak of COVID-19. The number of visitors to Hong Kong dropped drastically by 99.9 per cent year-on-year, as mentioned earlier by Mr Edward Yau, the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development.  Since the government relaxed the social distancing ban last week, many travel agencies started to organize local tours. At the same time, the Hong Kong tourism board relaunched the "Hello Hong Kong" scheme to help the sector.  The board offers free tours for the citizens who spend HK$800 or more on the local brick-and-mortar shops, including retail stores and restaurants. It is estimated that the government will subsidize the travel agencies in total HK$5 million on a selective basis. While some travel agencies find the policies effective for their recovery, some think the policies did little in relieving the plight of the tour operators. Sue Tsang, the customer service officer of the China Travel Service, said there is popular demand for the campaign, and it directly brings business opportunities to domestic tourism.  The number of tourists who sign up for other locally escorted tours remains limited. For the sake of overcoming the difficult times, China Travel Service also promotes discounted prepaid coupons and staycation packages.  "I have to stretch my legs. Although the local tour is not my priority, it is still a choice," said Eric Cheung, a middle-aged man who intends to enquire about international tours in the travel agency, chose to join local tours instead. Although the government has reopened the border, executed measures such as local inbound tours, the agencies' staff reckon that it is still unable to save those agencies which are on the verge of collapse. "There is no room for survival if the government does not implement new rules for cross-border tourism," said Wong Ka-lam, …

Business

Exhibition of food and beverage industry in HK draws over 270 brands

The 3-day Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong X Gourmet Asia exhibition at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre ended on Nov. 13. Once postponed due to COVID-19, the Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong X Gourmet Asia exhibition was the only trade show for Hong Kong's food and beverage industry this year. Over 270 exhibitors and brands were participating in this event presenting spirits and beer; food service and catering equipment; hospitality design and supplies, as well as hospitality technology. The exhibition adopted hygienic precautions amid the pandemic. According to the posters and leaflets inside the venue, people were required to wear masks at all times and keep a safe distance of 1 meter when in queues. Buyers were asked to dispose of used lidded paper cups in a designed rubbish bin. Liang Jia, a 29-year old wholesale buyer who sought to buy meat said she felt the rules and measures were stricter compared to last year. She felt it is inconvenient to toss the trash into the designated bin since the bins were located far from each stall. Some exhibitors made their products specifically to cater to the time of the pandemic. Sales manager Twinkle Wong from BBPOS, a payment service provider, introduced their new vending machine without human contacts in the purchasing process. She believed that the risk of being infected would be reduced. "COVID-19 has shown the society the need for zero-contact ordering and payment methods in the food and beverage industry," Ms Wong said, adding that this was the debut of the machine in Hong Kong. The pandemic has raised the need among consumers to live a healthy and green life, which leads to strong demands for natural and organic products. Sales representative Winnie Choi from Green Common, a vegan product company, said they have seen …

Business

VPN: Chinese people's window to the outside world

Turning on the laptop, connecting to Shadowsocks, and then accessing Google. These are the necessary steps for some students in mainland China to complete their homework every day. During the outbreak of the coronavirus, many mainland students enrolled in colleges in Hong Kong have to stay in the mainland. In order to take online classes and complete course assignments, they need to scale the so-called Great Firewall, a virtual online barrier that keeps people in China out of specific foreign websites. Using Virtual Private Networks such as Shadowsocks, is a way to gain access to the uncensored Internet. Since the early 2000s, China has gradually blocked a large number of overseas websites including Google and Facebook. In recent years, the government has turned up the heat in its  control of the network so that VPNs have become more and more vital for people to cross the Great Firewall. Here is a guide to what you may want to know about VPN in China. What is VPN? VPN routes your device's internet connection through a private server rather than your Internet Service Provider. That way, it masks the identity of your device because all of your data will appear to come from a private server and enables you to operate data that can only be operated through the private network. By using VPN, software running on a computer or a mobile phone can gain some rights that only a private network has, such as security and some specific function such as internal resources of an organization. Take The Young Reporter for example, as a student publication the portal of TYR can only be logged in and managed when the user's device is connected to the university's network. In order to operate the portal remotely, editors need to use a VPN so …

Business

Fitness video games under home quarantine

Staying fit while under home quarantine because of the pandemic is a challenge for some, and not doing exercise may only worsen the cabin fever. So turning to Ring Fit Adventure maybe one solution. The fitness video game from Nintendo, a Japanese games and electronic company, topped the sale charts in Japan, America and Europe, with over 170 million copies sold in late February, after being released for five months. Ring Fit Adventure was launched at a price of 7980 yen, which is approximately 577 Hong Kong dollars. However, as demand soared since the coronavirus outbreak, the price jumped more than threefolds to around 2100 Hong Kong dollars at its highest point in February. The price of the game has risen rapidly since mid January in mainland China as well. According to Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at a gaming market research company, Chinese sellers are buying overseas game sets at the list price and reselling them for around 2200 Hong Kong dollars. He thinks that the huge price difference is due to global shortage. In Weibo, there are 10.2 million discussions under the topic of Ring Fit Adventures. Short videos and thoughts regarding the game are shared. Nintendo even had to apologize for the shortage, as shut down of factories in China affected the supply. On Nintendo's official website, the game experience is described as "Explore fantasy adventure worlds to defeat monsters using real-life exercises". In the adventure mode in Ring Fit, users are required to mirror the poses shown to defeat monsters. The poses are sorted into four main categories, each meant to train a specific body part. For example, under the "leg" category, users need to do squats, mountain climber and side steps. Claudia Cheng, 24, bought the game after the start of the epidemic. "As I …

Business

Invest for your Future: Retirement Savings should now be on Track

Retirement may seem a long way off for young people, but it is never too early to invest for better retirement life. Once entering the workforce in Hong Kong, fresh graduates will start to invest via the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) - an employment-based retirement protection system. Under the scheme, both employee and employer are required to make a monthly mandatory MPF contribution, which is equivalent to 5% of the employee's relevant income, with a cap of HKD$30,000 per month. Employees with monthly earnings less than HK$7,100 are exempt from contributing to their own MPF accounts, but their employers are still required to make a 5% contribution.  In that case, for someone who has worked for 43 years, he or she will have a minimum of $3 million of savings under the MPF Scheme.  However, MPF hasn’t made everyone feel secure enough. The Financial Literacy Monitor 2018 reveals only 34% of surveyed Hongkongersres aged 18 to 79 were confident that they were financially well-prepared for retirement. According to UN World Population Prospects 2019, the average life expectancy for Hong Kong people has reached 85 years, ranking the top in the world. As people in Hong Kong generally retire at 65, retirement can potentially last for more than 20 years. During retirement, your monthly living expenses, medical fees as well as the cost of inflation can come up to much more than you expect. According to the Census and Statistics Department, the average monthly expenditure of retired households is $22,634. However, the survey done by the University of Hong Kong shows that respondents expected an average monthly retirement living expenses of about $12,600, which is less than half the actual monthly expenditure from the census and statistics department survey. Nearly 80% of the respondents considered that the average monthly expenditure after …

Business

Hong Kong budget plan subsidizes employment programmes under weak economy

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: BellaHuang、Cynthia Lin、ShukmanSo、Sunny SunEdited by: Mark Chen、AlecLastimosa
  • 2020-02-27

The Hong Kong government will provide additional annual funding of $30 million for employment programmes of the Labour Department to relieve job loss and financial pressure on individuals and companies, said Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po in the Feb 26 budget plan. The economy in Hong Kong has been hit hard by the outbreak of the coronavirus and months of anti-government protests, which makes the labour market subject to huge pressure. According to the Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Hong Kong has risen to 3.4% from November 2019 to January 2020.  Over the same period, the employed population has decreased by over 10,000 to 3.80 million, and the number of people available for work has dropped by around 16,300 to 3.93 million. "The labour market eased further as economic conditions continued to worsen," said Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare. "The year-on-year decline in total employment widened further," he added. Dr Law said that the dramatic fall in employment rate signified that some people may have chosen to leave the labour force after losing their jobs. In light of the worsened employment situation, Paul Chan encourages employers to hire the elderly, the disabled and young school leavers by raising the ceiling of on-the-job training allowance under different employment programmes. The Youth Employment and Training Programme is a pre-training programme for all young school leavers aged 15 to 24. Participants of the programme can apply for one-month internships provided by the government, welfare agencies and private enterprises, as well as an internship allowance of $45,800. "I came to Hong Kong last year and worked as a handyman. But our industry has been affected by anti-government protests since last September," said Wong Tsz-Hong, 23, who has been working after graduating from high school in Foshan, Guangdong. …

Business

Health sector calls for wise spending on $75 billion fund for Hospital Authority

  • The Young Reporter
  • By: Tomiris Urstembayeva、Han Xu、Leone Xue、RonaldFanEdited by: Tomiris Urstembayeva、Han Xu、Leone Xue、RonaldFan
  • 2020-02-26

Financial Secretary, Paul Chan, has made the fight against COVID-19 a priority in this year's budget. In his speech in Legco on Wednesday, he promised $75 billion will be granted to the Hospital Authority, however, some professionals worried that the budget is not going to be spent wisely.  "They are not managing their money effectively. The government should be monitoring how the HA uses the money effectively and properly," said Cyrus Lau Hoi Man, a registered nurse and an officer of Hong Kong Allied Health Professionals and Nurses Association. Out of the $75 billion, $30 billion will be spent on setting up Anti-epidemic Fund to facilitate the provision of prevention supplies by sourcing them worldwide, while supporting local production to satisfy soaring demand.  "Making good use of fiscal reserves to support enterprises and relieve people's hardship is certainly in line with our people's expectations towards the government under the current difficult environment," said Financial Secretary, Paul Chan Mo-po. The Hospital Authority will get $600 million to increase manpower and improve the quality of. Services. Another $650 million will go toward supporting the District Health Centre in Kwai Tsing and to set up six more centres around Hong Kong in the coming two years.  "(We) will continue to allocate resources to promote district-based primary healthcare services, with a view to enhancing the public's capability in self-health management and providing community support for chronically ill patients," said Mr Chan.  Rehiring retired doctors and nurses is one of the ways the government is planning to solve the doctor shortage. But according to Mr Lau, this solution is only "a bottle of water to put out a big fire" as retired doctors are not as "energetic" as the younger ones. He also thinks that it's necessary to propose "punishment" to avoid any unfairness in …