MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
Deputy President, the current vacancy rate of residential units is constituted mainly by newly-completed first-hand residential units and this is why people think that levying a vacancy tax on unsold first-hand residential units may perhaps be an effective way to increase supply. Some experts even hold that if this tax is introduced, reference should be drawn to the progressive tax rate for unoccupied premises currently implemented in France, which starts with a rate of 10% of the property price for premises that have been unoccupied for one year, with the rates increasing to 12.5% and further to 15% for premises remaining unoccupied for two years and three years respectively. My supplementary question is this: If the Government is currently studying the introduction of a vacant property tax, will it adopt a comparatively moderate tax rate or draw reference to this French progressive tax rate?
SECRETARY FOR TRANSPORT AND HOUSING (in Cantonese):
Deputy President, I thank Mr CHAN for his supplementary question. In fact, the introduction of any tax will deal a blow to the economy and to the existing system, and this, we know very clearly. But as to how we can strike a balance, having regard to the impact on the economy or property developers or even the public, we will be very careful about it. As to whether a progressive vacant property tax or other mechanisms will be adopted, I have to ask you, Deputy President, as well as Members to bear with me because as we are in the course of conducting the studies, so we need to exercise great care and caution and we do not wish to make any unnecessary disclosure in advance.