Government policy not crap, and you don’t have to enrich KS Li daily

Not one, but two, pieces of exciting and wonderful news.

First, the Hong Kong government, with exactly 11.5 months to go before handing over to a new administration, issues a press release containing the important information that its policymaking isn’t crap and isn’t oblivious to public opinion. I am beside myself with remorse. For some time now I have occasionally had doubts about our leadership’s decisions, and I think I might even have said so out loud. And to think I was wrong. My profuse apologies to our senior officials.

The Financial Times, meanwhile, publishes a little biography of Hong Kong mega-tycoon Li Ka-shing, whose Cheung Kong Infrastructure wants to buy the UK’s Northumbrian Water. Li is, to be sure, in a league of his own among the Big Lychee’s property cartel operators. He didn’t inherit his wealth, unless you count a well-off uncle’s helping hand after marriage to a cousin, and he started off working for and then running plastic goods factories during the sweatshop era of the 1950s and 60s.

The other property giants follow in Li’s footsteps in a way that is more embarrassing than cynical. After Li raised easy capital from Hong Kong’s superman-worshipping public by floating at the height of the tech bubble in 1999-2000, Sung Hung Kai’s Kwok brothers rushed to put their own dud portal to nowhere, Sun-E Vision, on the market, as did others. After Li floated his Prosperity real estate investment trust – itself capitalizing on the government’s privatization of property via the Link REIT – Henderson Land (‘Sunlight’) and others cobbled together bunches of unwanted buildings, complete with financial arrangements designed to boost short-term dividends, in the hope of making a quick buck. So far, they haven’t done a me-too act to emulate Li’s Renminbi-denominated, historic milestone-gimmick Hui Xian REIT, but then it flopped when it was launched a few months back.

Li’s purported great strength is in asset trading, the assets usually being steady cash-generating businesses like utilities, retail and ports. He has also dabbled in telecoms, only to face the horror of discovering that it is a competitive business in which consumers can choose between service providers. Like the other Hong Kong tycoons, and most of the non-Japanese/Korean/Taiwanese ones in Asia, Li doesn’t do real entrepreneurism. When did a Hutchison or Cheung Kong company last come out with an innovative product or even a bold new business model that undercut rivals? The only thing these tycoons’ conglomerates could ever patent is methods of colluding with each other and government.

Which is why it comes as a great revelation to read in the FT that it is an exaggeration to say that “anyone living in Hong Kong cannot go through a day without making Li Ka-shing wealthier.”

I had previously imagined that those of us living on Hong Kong Island or Lamma could only avoid adding to Li’s wealth by not using any of Hongkong Electric Co’s power, or not buying goods or services from anyone who does. I always thought that it would be next to impossible to avoid doing business with everyone who lives in a Hutchison or Cheung Kong property and who at least pays eternal management fees to the developer’s subsidiaries, or who shops at Hutchison’s Park N Shop supermarkets or Watsons personal care stores, or who buys goods that have come through a Li container port or two. Even by patronizing rival suppliers of goods and services, where they exist, I suspected that in most cases you enriched a fellow cartel member who creates wealth indirectly for Li’s firms by (legally) engaging with them in anti-competitive practices such as price-fixing. Indeed, I believed that the only possible way you could get something back from the Li empire was to deliberately subscribe to his 3 phone network in the hope that you would add to that company’s losses (but even that won’t work now it has finally turned a profit).

Thanks to the FT, I now realize that, as with the Hong Kong government’s policymaking expertise, I was mistaken.

Click to hear ‘EE Lawson’ by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils!

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4 Responses to Government policy not crap, and you don’t have to enrich KS Li daily

  1. Real Tax Payer says:

    “Before initiating a new policy, the Government will work hard to ensure it is well thought-out, while also making sure the move will reflect public sentiment.”

    Does that mean that in the past the Govt has NOT been working hard to ensure that new policies are well thought-out and reflect public sentiment ? It certainly reads that way to me .

    All that’s missing are the two little words “in future” after “will” and before “work” to get the true meaning of this govt-speak blurb
    (and assuming that was indeed what our CE was thinking it was a true Freudian slip in the way it finally came across)

    BTW : having grimaced at the pic of Superman Li’s smug smile as he tells us to spend more at his stores, use more electricty, make more phone calls etc so he can become even richer still ( “KS Li wants ALL YOUR MONEY”), I did a double-take when I glanced at the picture of DD in Legco . I thought for a second it was KS Li standing there waving his hands to one side as if he is throwing away all our tax money. Look closely – there’s an uncanny resemblance : the wide hairless forehead, the nose structure , the angular cheekbones. It only needs DD to stop wearing that ridiculous bow tie and change his gold-rimmed glasses to standard superman dark rim style and one would be hard-pressed to tell the two apart.

    But only if DD stops looking so worried and Mr Li would wipe that smug smile off his face

  2. Real Tax Payer says:

    Sorry guys n’ gals out there on the Big Lychee, but in the absence of any other contributors today I can’t resist a repartee

    I always find something worth thinking about after reading Hemlock’s musings-of-the-day

    Looking at those two pics today is really heart breaking in more ways than one. DD is actually a very nice guy at heart . His only really big mistake in life was that – just like his predecessor – he bit off much more than he could chew when he agreed to become our CE. Now he has painted himself into a miserable lonely corner, and I bet his colleagues are seeking to distance themselves from him in his dying days as a leading HK figure . Bet he regrets the day he ever promised to “get the job done”. But in real life such public pronoucements of gloriously vain intentions are now cast in (virtual www ) stone forever. Henceforth DD will always be remembered as U-Turn Tsang

    Wish DD would fire the lot of them just to show who’s boss for once : starting with John Tsang, financial clown, and Mike the Suen who doesn’t even follow his own departement’s missives ( How badly must one trangress these days to be required to resign as a matter of honor ? Sleep with rupert murdoch ? )

    Just look how “old and weary” DD seems compared to SUPERMAN !

    Would that someone with KS Li’s self-confidence and broad smile and eternal youth and vitality was leading us ! ( I don’t think)

    KS Li looks 10 or even 20 years younger than DD.

    Google is wonderful thing..

    Donald Tsang Kam-Yuen. Born 1944.
    Hobbies : Hiking, swimming & birdwatching ( as per websites )

    Li Ka-Shing . Born 1928 ( ! )
    Hobbies : making money, more money and even MORE MONEY
    ( as per http://www.hkgovt.collusion_with_propertydevelopers.coN )

  3. Sen says:

    The reason I suspect that RTP has had the comments to himself, is that like me the other contributors know which side their toast is buttered and more importantly who supplies the butter, the toast the grill plate and indeed the electricity to fire up the whole process to even think of reading anything not hagiographic of our beloved Uncle Li, may he be with us and guide us till Judgement Day and beyond.

  4. Real Tax Payer says:

    Amen to Our-Man Uncle Li . Wan sui ! Wan sui !

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