FEBRUARY 12, 2014
Canada’s housing market has soared while the US market crashed.
Canada has the most overvalued housing market in the world:
The WSJ recently commented:
Canada, for example, is very open to foreign investors, which means that in an age of unprecedented global liquidity cash-rich wealthy individuals who are looking for places to park their excess funds can do so in its housing market far more easily than in Japan, with its closed system.
Now, the Canadian government is eliminating “its controversial investor Visa scheme, which has allowed waves of rich Hongkongers and mainland Chinese to immigrate since 1986.”
The story continues in The South China Morning Post:
Canada’s government has announced that it is scrapping its controversial investor visa scheme, which has allowed waves of rich Hongkongers and mainland Chinese to immigrate since 1986.
The surprise announcement was made in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget, which was delivered to parliament in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon local time. Tens of thousands of Chinese millionaires in the queue will reportedly have their applications scrapped and their application fees returned.
The decision came less than a week after the South China Morning Post published a series of investigative reports into the controversial 28-year-old scheme.
The Post revealed how the scheme spun out of control when Canada’s Hong Kong consulate was overwhelmed by a massive influx of applications from mainland millionaires. Applications to the scheme were frozen in 2012 as a result, as immigration staff struggled to clear the backlog.
“In recent years, significant progress has been made to better align the immigration system with Canada’s economic needs. The current immigrant investor program stands out as an exception to this success,” Flaherty’s budget papers said.
“For decades, it has significantly undervalued Canadian permanent residence, providing a pathway to Canadian citizenship in exchange for a guaranteed loan that is significantly less than our peer countries require,” it read.
Under the scheme, would-be migrants worth a minimum of C$1.6 million (HK$11.3 million) loaned the government C$800,000 interest free for a period of five years. The simplicity and low relative cost of the risk-free scheme made it the world’s most popular wealth migration program.
A parallel investor migration scheme run by Quebec still remains open. Many Chinese migrants use the alternative scheme to get into Canada via the French-speaking province and then move elsewhere in Canada. The federal government has previously pledged to crack down on what it said was a fraudulent practice.
Flaherty also announced yesterday the scrapping of a smaller economic migration scheme for entrepreneurs.
All told, 59,000 investor applicants and 7,000 entrepreneurs will have their applications returned, Postmedia News reported. Seventy per cent of the backlog, as of last January, was Chinese, suggesting more than 46,000 mainlanders will be affected by yesterday’s announcements.
The Immigrant Investor Program, which has brought about 185,000 migrants to Canada, was instrumental in facilitating an exodus of rich Hongkongers in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and in the run-up to the handover. More than 30,000 Hongkongers immigrated using the scheme, though SAR applications have dwindled since 1997.
The investor visa plan is truly stupid and should be eliminated. The idea of requiring loans to the government in exchange for citizenship is incredibly perverse. All money lent to the government is wasted and hurts the economy. The Chinese and Hongkongers who participated in this program could have really invested that money in productive endeavors instead. But this is a double-whammy to the Canadian economy, because to pay back those loans the Canadian state must tax its citizens, which hurts the economy even more.
But what effect will this have on Canada’s housing bubble? It will reduce demand for Canadian real estate. That obviously doesn’t help keep prices high.
Yet the really critical factor is central bank policy. The Bank of Canada is not up to date on its financial statements, but as of November it held more assets than ever. I am interested to see whether Poloz will “taper” with his American counterparts.
My intuition says that he won’t. Poloz wants to keep down the Canadian dollar and subsidize exports. The Bank of Canada has been expanding its balance sheet since mid-2010. Canada’s M1 money supply has grown dramatically. Canada’s housing prices are high. Canada’s interest rates are low. Yield on Canadian government bonds have fallen below American bonds. Yet consumer prices are not rising quickly, so the Bank of Canada sees its policy as an epic success so far.