Mercantile exchange dream collapses, not many hurt

Then-Chief Executive Donald Tsang’s policy initiatives in the mid-late 2000s were so gut-wrenchingly awful they are best forgotten. Think Zhuhai bridge, Lok Ma Chau Loop, education hub, high-speed rail tunnel to Shenzhen, Islamic bonds hub, arbitration hub, wine hub, cooperation, partnership and a host of other multi-billion dollar white elephants, cross-boundary blather and desperately naïve straw-clutching. Among Sir Bow-Tie’s miasma of absurdities was the idea of a commodities trading hub, but the existing Hong Kong Stock Exchange saw it as a money-loser (as if to prove the point, they later blew the most stupendous amount imaginable to buy the London Metals Exchange).

So along came the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange, owned by all-purpose establishment/business figure Barry Cheung, two state-owned Chinese mega-companies and Russia’s Putin-backed Rusal minerals giant. It was supposed to be a trading platform for fuel-oil futures but ended up doing precious metals. For a while it was the focus of avid bureaucrat-driven hype, with its luminaries smugly swanning around as great visionaries while every shoe-shiner in town had orgasms at the thought of the Big Lychee becoming the Solar System’s number-one Yuan-denominated gold derivatives centre-hub Yeah Baby mega-complex.

And now it turns its trading licence in ‘to re-align its strategy with the new industry environment since its trading revenues have not been sufficient to support operating expenses’ – which I think means ‘gone bust’ in plain English. Dreams of well-connected, crony-friendly, luxury-offices-at-Cyberport, space-age, high-tech, middle-aged whizz kid intermediaries making zillions of easy-easy-money in a frenzy of Beijing-linked, Hong Kong-bureaucrat-endorsed rent-seeking – all evaporated in the face of some reality or other: competition, hubris, incompetence (tick more than one if necessary).

Everyone wants to know the dirt about Barry Cheung’s personal, or at least, financial details. As Chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority, he has been overseeing a bureaucracy with a genuine licence to print money, by evicting slum dwellers and teaming up with the big property tycoons to develop luxury apartments for corrupt Mainland officials to buy and leave empty. Then, maybe out of idealism, possibly because of a gift for spotting shifting winds a mile off, or perhaps as a sheer lunatic gamble, Barry sided with Leung Chun-ying in advance of the 2012 Chief Executive quasi-election. So there is no shortage of people ready to pontificate about how dreadful it would be if, as a member of the Executive Council, he was in a state of financial embarrassment.

But the real story is about the futility and bankruptcy of Hong Kong’s policymaking when it comes to things like broadening the city’s economic base – attempting to untangle extreme distortions without upsetting any of the interests that benefit from the distortions. And trying way too hard.


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9 Responses to Mercantile exchange dream collapses, not many hurt

  1. Looks like another exploding Hub to me. Love it!

    Thank God one can hide those consultancy fees in the Virgin Islands. Liechtenstein was getting to be so finicky.

  2. maugrim says:

    With reference to the last paragraph, its more than that. The problem is the incestuousness with which ideas are generated and to whom goodies are given. Its usually the same cabal which means that little of any wider benefit is going on. For example, a person is appointed to a body, say hypothetically, the ICAC. The bestower of such a gift may or may not have a case that needs investigating at some stage. Perhaps the case is put on the backburner for a while?

  3. Local Tax Payer (ret'd) says:

    Your prose should be set to music, with its alternation of major key, all cliched hyphenated compounds and pounding climactic bravado, with minor-key bracket-strewn and dashed falling cadence.

    BVI are so yesterday — Andorra is the new place to be seen, or Sark at a pinch.

  4. Sojourner says:

    Hemmers, you excel yourself!

    Your “J’Accuse!” is worthy of the great Zola himself.

  5. Real Tax Payer (almost ret'd) says:

    Long before Hemmers put pen to paper this morning – or 2 fingers to keyboard as the case may be – I was taking my morning walk and thinking out loud to myself : ” Donald : when you ran that stoopid re-election campaign with the slick slogan (because ALL election campaigns MUST have a slogan) “I’ll Get The Job Done” what the f**k did you mean by “The Job” ?

    Pity we didn’t ask you at the time because it seems with retrospect that “The Job” was to :

    1. F**k the environment

    2. Pour as much concrete as possible ( especially if it f**ks the environment)

    3. Compromise the ICAC’s integrity – and also get investigated by the ICAC yourself – which is why maybe you f**ked the ICAC from the top down

    4. What other evil did you do ? My memory fails me

    Oh yes – build white elephant “hubs” for one

    Pity that the monster duck in the harbor has already deflated due to too many cigarette buts thrown its way

    But but better cigarette buts than buts of sad and sick jokes which you, Donald The Ultimate Duck now must bear until you go way of the duck in the harbor : sunk for good

    ( Well – that was one helluva morning walk’s thought , which is why I rather liked Hemmer’s opening paragraph today )

  6. Failed Alchemist says:

    “The rooms were so much colder then
    My father was a soldier (policeman) then
    And times were very hard
    When I was young”

    “My faith was so much stronger then
    I believed in fellow men
    And I was so much older then
    When I was young” – The Animals

    But alas, when the duckling grew up… he knew how to blow smoke up our bloody a@%&. The sinner of a million years knew how to slip a micky to the Big Lychee and sod its inhabitants… Name everything wrong today from ICAC, observatory director, the tycoons, even to the endless overhead bridges to no where… the Duck grew up and pretty fast too. One for all & all for one.

  7. Joe Friday LAPD says:

    Real Dick Player, now that you have retired and you have lots of free time, wouldn’t it be a fantastic idea and opportunity to start your very own blog, so that we don’t have to wait until 11.30 AM every morning to read your wit and wisdom ?

  8. PCC says:

    Very nice juxtaposition of photos and headlines, Hemlock.

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    Being just about to fly to the land-where-there-is-no-access-to- HK- blogs I thought it worthwhile to mention one hilarious snippet from Tuesday’s HK Standard.

    The funniest consequence of “Mad Dog” Wong Yuk-Man’s sudden resignation from People Power over a ‘grudge’ was not the fact that it proves once again that these ultra-pro-dems couldn’t organize a booze-up in a beer factory because they are more intent on fighting each other than whatever dark forces of evil that threaten us (although I find that alone a very amusing fact).

    It was , was this fact . viz that the Mad Dog not only resigned from People Power, but he also resigned from a political party which I never heard of before : the DATOCELCY – which is the Democratic Alliance for the Toppling Of Chief Exectutive Leung Chun-Ying (!) .

    Goes to prove that you can have a democratic alliance for just about anything these days , whether it’s acting as raving loonies or running the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea

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