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Property curbs a bitter, but necessary pill for economy

By Clem Chambers (Global Times)

08:13, June 25, 2012

Nobody likes it when a government steps in to stop property prices from rising too far, or too fast, as is currently being undertaken in China.

The Chinese housing market fell by 18 percent in 2012's first quarter, due to home purchasing restrictions which officials last month pledged to continue. The restrictions vary depending on locality but in general limit house purchases to those with permanent residency, as well as restricting multiple purchases.

Over the past two generations in particular, the world has become increasingly addicted to real estate. Many a global fortune has been created by way of a long-term focus on seemingly never-ending property price rises and many a property "bubble" has eventually burst, negatively impacting entire economies.

The first of these modern-era "bubbles" occurred in Japan. At one stage, the land that made up the emperor's palace was valued at more than all the land and real estate in the whole of California. Even so, the bubble continued on - until the late 1980s when it burst spectacularly, breaking the back of the Japanese economy with it.

Japan has since been in a deflationary spiral; a seemingly inescapable low- growth economic environment. The property boom and bubble is widely considered the genesis of the country's grinding, economic problems.

Real estate, when it goes bad, is a blow to the heart of a financial system. With China's financial markets still at an immature stage, stock market volatility levels through the roof, and a long line of Western countries serving as examples of how rocketing property prices can eventually lead to general economic disaster - the Chinese government's crackdown against investment and speculative housing demand may make Chinese homeowners grumpy, but it can only be good news for those attempting to get on the property ladder.

Keeping property prices within reach of China's rising "middle class" is viewed as very important when it comes to the preservation of political stability.

The leverage and economic distortion of a runaway property bubble in the early years of the new century was directly responsible for the crash of 2008 that saw the West come close to an economic abyss it still totters on the edge of.

With the short term "leveraging" of debt in the real estate market helping to create what appears to be more wealth for a country, it's hardly surprising that the clamor for new property booms will always be there, always seductive.

The ultimate price, however, is economic meltdown.

Despite China's slowing property market appearing to cause a "drag" on the economy as a whole, in the long-term, the nation cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the West.


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