Stock market analysts misjudge Deutsche Bank’s fourth-quarter profit by a factor of eight. They can be forgiven. They don’t work for the company, so all they can do is look at charts and do their voodoo. Unlike Hong Kong Financial Secretary John Tsang, who has teams of highly paid bean-counter and economist bureaucrats watching over the city’s revenues pouring down the gaping government gullet day after day.
If an FS says we will have an x-billion budget deficit and it turns out to be a 10x-billion surplus once, you could put it down to bad luck. When he does it most years, as the Standard’s graphic shows, there is something wrong. It now looks as if his predicted 2012-13 HK$3.4 billion deficit is going to be a HK$40 billion-or-more surplus. That’s four times the amount the administration plans to spend over several years phasing out dirty vehicles to clean the air.
The SCMP quotes lawmaker Ronny Tong as saying that this miscalculation must be deliberate. Quite a lot of people believe this, the theory being that it is a way of managing expectations and quelling calls for handouts or higher recurrent expenditure. But such a tactic, if that is what it was, stopped working years ago. The tactic ceases to exist once you accompany it with the plethora of witless electricity subsidies, tax rebates and other handouts seen over the last few years. Anyway, such a blatant and futile attempt to hoodwink the public annually would be clear proof of idiocy.
The only other explanation is, well, idiocy. The sort that manifests itself as incompetence. A real walrus, rather than an impersonator, would do a better job of monitoring and estimating the incomings; based on which, he would either reduce them or prudently raise spending on something underfunded like health, from budget to budget. As it surely says he is supposed to in his job description.
Tsang could argue that Hong Kong’s fiscal system, which randomly delivers revenue in huge clumps out of synch with either the calendar or the economic cycle, is the problem. But after merrily not reforming the tax system for six straight years, that would also be an admission of incompetence. His best hope is to plead insanity.
Some interesting mutterings are going on about whether ‘the’ (more accurately, ‘some’) Chinese believe they are a separate race descended from a different line from that of the rest of humanity. It’s an irresistible topic. Lots of cultures see themselves as apart. The Japanese claim their stomachs are different from everyone else’s (though this has largely served as a justification for import barriers on rice; their snow is different too, hence tariffs on foreign skis). And could anything be more arrogant than the American fundamentalist Christian assumption that their country and constitution are favoured by God (a belief directly inherited from the English puritans).
Modern DNA analysis has blown claims to racial exclusivity away, and no self-respecting Chinese archaeologist or anthropologist today would dispute that we are all distant cousins. (Those who once did presumably did so out of political rather than scientific conviction.)
I declare the weekend open with this thought: it’s not as if being a Homo erectus was something to be proud of.
Of course the systematically wrong estimates are “deliberate”, but only if you believe the Walrus is rational, conscious of what he’s doing and not just throwing a dart at a row of numbers.
Everything is negotiable, so govt statements are like projected waiting times: designed to massage public expectations rather than reveal state secrets. Remember, the PRC has been promised at least 10 tn in 2047, so nothing can be wasted on health or education, which will just make the natives more uppity.
Tsang is a pipe smoker. I gave it up as I followed Goethe’s advice:
“Das Rauchen macht dumm.” Smoking makes you stupid.
After a few pipes of Erinmore, Tsang is as high as a kite and makes the figures up.
The best cock-up in recent weeks though has been the milk formula scandaldebacleblamage with the “Government” saying only a week ago they would let the “market” decide and now running around like blue-arsed flies trying to get a grip on an easily-controlled situation.
If you can’t feed babies, maybe you should call it a day.
What I can’t understand is why they don’t just give the wee mites (a) breast milk or (b) fresh (cow’s) milk, reinforced with a little “formula” if they’re worried about the super-development of the uber-race, or “-race” as Hemlock liberally has it.
Hemlock is spot on with origins of the species debate. The evidence is clear, we all came out of Africa. The genetic footprint can be followed out of North Africa, through the Middle East; one branch goes west and another east through India, Indonesia, before branching again to the south into Australia and north to China.
I thought we all descended from Adam, Adam Wong that is …
Weekend is open.
Milk formula is produced by conglomerates like Unilever and Nestle. How difficult would it be for those companies to open their own stores in China (a la Apple), selling their own brands that are guaranteed to be pure and unadulterated, making everybody happy ?
This reminded me of actor Stephen Chow’s (who is now a member of the Guangdong CPPCC) comedy “From Beijing with Love” where he mocked the sense of exceptionalism in China by proclaiming that the dinosaurs that lived on Chinese soil were different from those portrayed in “Jurassic Park”: the Chinese ones were so kind that they would not eat people.
I hereby make a Nostradamus infallible prediction :
John O’whiskers Tsang will also under -estimate his 2014 budget wrong by at least HK$50 Billion ( that’s if CY allows him to hang on that long)
It would make a lot more sense if the LEGCO finance committee forced the walrus to give back every cent of what the govt income actually is vs what he predicted to a group of intelligent people who would spend the excess over estimate on things that matter : like paying the bus companies to replace all their polluting buses immediately, better educatation, better hospital faciltities, more monety for the aged…
I’m happy to pay my taxes, but if there’s a really an excess I don’t want a tax rebate or a handout : I want the money to go to those who really need it
Methinks $50 B would go long way
PS : Bad news: The Big Lychee is now blocked in some major cities in West China from which I have recently returned. And if you think air pollution is bad in HK you have to imagine a city with over twice HK’s population where 365 days per year the sun barely appears as more than a dull red orb, less bright even than the moon by night in HK on a misty day. A whole generation will grpw up in that city never having even seen the moon, let alone the stars.
The sun was shining through the smog
Shining with all its might
He did his very best to make
Hong Kong feel warm and bright
And this was very odd because
Environment’s no right*
(* at least here in HK )
The walrus and the SAR C E
Were walking hand in hand
They wept to like anything to see
Such surpluses at hand
“If only we could spend this cash”
They said “It would be grand”
The moon was shining sulkily
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done
“It’s very rude of him” she said
“It’s pollution not the sun”
The sea was wet as wet could be
The sands were full of shit
You could not see the sand because
The rubbish was just “it”
No swimmers were there swimming
Because the shit was “it”
“If seven civil million civil servants
“Swept for half a year
“Do you suppose” the C E said
“That they could get this clear?”
“I doubt it” said the Walrus
And shed insincere a tear
“Oh bus companies please work with us”
The walrus did beseech
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk
Along the shit-filled beach”
“We want to kill your buses if
It’s just within our reach”
The eldest bus then looked at him
But never a word he said
The eldest bus then winked his eye
And shook his engine head
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave KMB’s bed
All the bus companies ran up
All eager for the treat
Their share price high, investors glad
Their faces clean and neat
And this was odd because you know
Bus companies are sheet*
( *plural of shit)
They came, they begged, they got the funds
They ran off crowing “YEAH!”
But Hong Kong people all rejoiced
Because we got clean air
And this was very odd because
We could have done this long ago
If only Duck did dare
“The time has come” the walrus said
“To talk of many things..
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
And cabbages and kings
And whether HK’s EPA is as fucked up as
Donald Ducks’ impotent administration was and
can finally pull their fingers out of their arse holes
and get to DO SOME THINGS
( that would at last make a difference to our filthy
air and save us from Beijing smog-type things)