Friday, October 10, 2014

Is Hong Kong Really a Free Market Haven?

Katie Hunt at the BBC makes the case that Hong Kong is slipping:
 Hong Kong's free-market credentials have long masked a more complicated picture than its model economy status suggests and recent moves, such as the introduction of a minimum wage, have renewed debate on whether Hong Kong is abandoning its laissez-faire roots.

"Although we deviate less from the laissez-faire model than other countries, our government is increasingly adopting a nanny state mentality," says Peter Wong, executive director of the Lion Rock Institute, a free-market think tank...

More than half of the population earn less than HK$11,000 ($1,400; £920) a month and household incomes have barely increased over the past 10 years despite a booming economy.

Many poor Hong Kongers live in sub-standard housing such as Tam Kin Wai. Away from the shimmering skyscrapers, many Hong Kongers live in poverty.To help people survive on such low incomes, the government provides public housing to about 50% of the population...

With low corporate and personal tax rates and no capital gains or inheritance tax, the government relies on land sales for revenue.But this policy has fuelled the belief that the government favours powerful property developers over ordinary people. A small number of developers, often owned by high-profile tycoons such as Li Ka-shing, have built fortunes from this system and they now dominate many other sectors of the economy.

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