Invasion of the zombie lame ducks on autopilot

While the city waits and bites its fingernails, anxiously awaiting the decision on who will be next to take the throne, the incumbent leaders carry out their ancient rituals with unquestioning and robotic dumbness, like zombie lame ducks on autopilot – were such a mutilated, technologically aided beast to exist.

On planet Lands Department, they are holding an auction, as if it was still 1988 when government sold space to developers to build homes for Hong Kong people and used the resulting revenue to pay for things Hong Kong needed. After selling three plots to various property cartel members for a total of HK$5.7 billion, Real Estate MegaCorp deputy director Graham Ross pronounces himself ‘satisfied with the results’ in the Standard. The two acolytes who tick sheets of paper put on their best seriously self-importantly smug looks to emphasize the point.

Those results are as follows. The property developers will construct nasty, ugly, mean residential projects smothered in marble, chandeliers and faux-Italian names, which they will sell for absurd prices to Mainlanders with cash they are not supposed to have, who will leave the dazzling/luxury/exclusive units empty for years on end. Meanwhile, the government adds another drop to its ocean of over a trillion bucks in reserves, which it will sit on pointlessly, occasionally and grudgingly using some of the interest income to augment revenues from taxpayers. If it ever gets around to spending some of the capital it will be on unnecessary and environmentally horrible infrastructure projects, essentially recycling much of the cash back to the property cartel, which also corners the construction materials market. Most of the press report all this as if a government thinking and acting like a real estate company is pure, natural, wholesome goodness.

At least the Lands Department actually performs some sort of visible actions that have noticeable – if bad or stupid – outcomes. For sheer redundancy, no-one can touch the Central Policy Unit, an office of arcane ceremony and puffed-up pomposity. Its boss, Professor Lau Siu-kai, has just performed an obscure, drawn-out symbolic rite known as the Meeting of the Commission on Strategic Development on Hong Kong’s work direction in complementing the National 12th Five-year Plan. (Neither the Commission on Strategic Development nor the National 12th Five-year Plan actually does, or means, anything. The former was founded years back by Chief Executive Donald Tsang to appoint his friends to, and more specifically not to appoint his critics to, so they would sit in the corner and feel all left out and miserable. The latter is an ancient sacrament involved in the worship of the failed god known as Communism.)

The Government, Lau grandly announces, may consider launching public engagement exercises to help Hong Kong people understand the need to enhance the city’s economic cooperation with the Mainland.

Somewhere in the bureaucracy, a public engagement exercise alarm goes off. We always have room for one more. There’s the ‘Don’t reverse trucks into elderly ladies, it’s not nice’ campaign. There’s the one that goes ‘Do our shopping malls a favour and be friendly to tourists, it’s more fun than you’d expect’. There’s ‘I love Hong Kong, I love green’. Then we always have ‘Don’t do drugs, kiddies, drugs are nasty and not nice’, now in its 74th amazingly successful year. And the hugely convincing ‘Let’s all be harmonious and friendly to everyone, it will be nice’ promotion, which I like to think made me what I am today.

Lau’s proposal addresses a particular communication challenge:

Noting Hong Kong is actively participating in the nation’s development and the country is willing to open its market to the city, Mr Lau said the development provides opportunities for Hong Kong industries to grow.

“But at the same time, not everyone will benefit from Hong Kong-China economic integration and some people will see themselves as losers in the process, particularly young people and the grassroots.”

In plain English: “The Mainland is going to swamp this place. If you’re a landlord you’ll make billions. The rest of you are screwed. Ha ha. Thank you for your attention.”

Let’s call it National Education for grown-ups.

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10 Responses to Invasion of the zombie lame ducks on autopilot

  1. Stephen says:

    You do well to highlight the root cause of HK’s absurd property prices – It’s Government Policy.

    Bust European countries who tried to run real estate based economies, and failed spectacularly, would do well to learn from how the HK Government does it.

    First take a rigged electorial system, add a cozy relationship between developers and government, ensure a stupified press (Sites sizzle at $5.7B) and don’t forget to ensure scant lease conversion (industrial zones?), zero residential site restrictions (Private housing = luxury) and a ready supply of foreign punters (Mainlanders) wishing to park their money.

    And what will they do with the shed loads of cash they have collected ? The rainy day line is wearing pretty thin now.

  2. Probably says:

    “And what will they do with the shed loads of cash they have collected ?”

    Eventually give it away to Beijing while no-one is looking as part of “closer economic co-operation” of course!

  3. Cretin Wong says:

    I’d rather have high property prices instead of high taxes, VAT, tons of regulation, welfare state policies etc.

    At least we have some choice in how much we want to spend.

  4. Probably says:

    As all economists will tell us, the communism experiment, and hence a planned economy is a failure. This therefore invalidates any of this state planning activity. The only duty of the state should be to prevent injustices, illegality, unsocial and monopolistic (or cartel) practices.

    Hence the only way for “closer co-operation” is to allow free movement of goods and services across the border – but this would mean all of those devious and corrupt mainland customs officials not getting their lai-see now wouldn’t it!

  5. Lucas O'Gara says:

    Cretin, half of HKers live in public housing, there are either already or soon going to be subsidies train and bus for the proletariat so that they can afford to travel from their PH rabbit hutches into their low-paying, unskilled service jobs in core areas, etc.

    “Welfare state policies” are here already.

    As for “I’d rather have high property prices instead of high taxes, VAT, tons of regulation, welfare state policies etc.” … The property prices drive up the prices of every single other good and service in HK. You get to pay an ungodly amount of money for a small and crumbly cement-and-plaster apartment *and* pay inflated prices for everything else.

    That’s the beauty of HK.

  6. Pete says:

    Graham Dunross, shurely?

  7. PropertyDeveloper says:

    @Probably There’s possibly no need to hand over the $1T to the mainland since in 2047 it will all be theirs anyway.

    And some of the difficulties in crossing the border must be HK’s fault. Why, for instance, is at least one crossing closed to pedestrians?

  8. Probably says:

    The difficulty I refer to in border crossing is at a business (economic exchange) level, i.e. passeage of goods. The mainland “regulations” are not transparent and the customs officials use this to find “problems” that can only be resolved by means of “guan xi” (Ceci will advise the correct spelling). This is a purely mainland problem as Hong Kong customs officers, accepting all other perceived failings, at least follow the letter of the law.

    Unless of course, you know different…….. (apologies to Esther Rantzen)

  9. anon says:

    A couple of reminders, amidst the general cussing on this page:

    1. High land price policy in HK, was strategy of Brits, capitalizing on their Colony. No surprise, here. Neither were they cuddly Santa Claus-es.
    2. But HK (& mainland) “property developers”, taking above policy to its logical, a-moral conclusion, maybe need a reminder: Chinese landlords, not-so-long-ago, were (to put it mildly) persona non grata…
    3. He that hath eyes to see, let him see?

  10. PropertyDeveloper says:

    For me, one strength of Hemlock’s musings, less visible in his book, is his recognition of the intertwining of the personal and social, political and economic matters.

    Similarly, your plea for “free movement of goods and services across the border” can only take place when individuals are free to ensure and accompany this movement. The land (and indeed maritime) border is a border rather than a porous boundary, then, because of all the obstacles of all sizes. And the small businessman who, for instance, wished to walk across for a few minutes cannot, in the same way as she cannot, in 99% of cases, drive across.

    Your spelling is okay. In English, they sometimes prefer to concatenate certain groups — Pokfulam, sifu — although I’d rather not get into this too much, as Onan and Pierce Ame may see it as linguistic hegemony, deliberately designed to destroy the Fatherland.

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