Greg So hijacks SCMP editorial column, not many hurt

The Hong Kong tourism debate degenerates into tertiary-stage syphilis. Mentally deranged Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Greg So tells lawmakers that the government will try to divert the anticipated extra 50 million annual visitors around all 18 districts of the city. He will achieve this by ‘increasing the number of tourism spots’, despite what appears to be a dire shortage of ‘spots’ for Hong Kong people. (On the radio today he seemed to say that he would ‘spread the benefits’ around all 18 districts – but I assume the Legislative Council interpreter was on hallucinogenic mushrooms.)

Meanwhile the South China Morning Post supports the So line in an intriguing editorial. The piece starts off blithely contradicting itself, then slides into economic illiteracy, and finally undermines itself either out of carelessness or, one suspects, deliberate subversion.

It begins by essentially conceding (citing its own reporting) that the city is practically full. Then, as if the content of those first two paragraphs did not exist, it recites the ‘we have no choice and it is good for us’ idiocy that we get from government officials and the tourism/landlord lobby when they insist on somehow stuffing more visitors in.

From jewellery stores and high-end restaurants to toiletries and infant milk formula, our cash-rich neighbours are now the economic lifeline of our tourism, retail and catering sectors.

Talk about getting it back to front. The jewellery, high-end restaurant, toiletries and infant milk formula trades are a parasitical growth, choking the rest of ‘our tourism, retail and catering sectors’. The truth – obvious to anyone unfortunate enough to pass through afflicted neighbourhoods – is that their spread is the result of artificial market distortions. It is not some wholesome advance in efficiency or productivity to be encouraged. The worst response is to increase the supply of ‘cash-rich neighbours’ that feeds them.

After this disastrous attempt at economic – or any – logic, the writer does a bit more ‘it’s terrible but OK really’, then sees he is approaching his word-count (some parts of Hong Kong have finite capacity). And suddenly we plunge into a stream of bureaucratic semi-consciousness…

…shutting tourists out is not an option. In the increasingly competitive world of tourism, every city wants a bigger share of the market. Official figures put the economic benefits brought by the individual visitor scheme at HK$26 billion in 2012.

Imposing a cap on arrivals is therefore unwise and unnecessary. Nor should the negative impact brought by the tourism boom be blown out of proportion. Hong Kong is not the only place overrun by tourists. As we enjoy the economic benefits, we should be prepared for the undesirable outcomes. The invisible hand of the free market will strike the right balance…

Where have we seen and heard this insistent, strident, hectoring, monotone, deaf, robotic and supremely unconvincing style of language before? Why, that’s right: in countless Hong Kong Government ‘Lines to Take’. I don’t have this one at hand, but I can safely say that it is one. They are instantly recognizable and almost beyond parody. (And put together purely to appease the senior officials who sign off on them; only a Big Lychee civil servant could accept the proposition that we must cram more tourists in because other cities are competing for them.)

It’s almost as if   Obviously, some SCMP deputy editor slapped it down on a hapless scribe’s desk and announced: “The Assistant Under-Sub-Secretary at the Commerce Bureau wants this in for tomorrow.” No other explanation for the attentive and devoted drafting of the piece will suffice.

As it happens, the Business section of the SCMP – which seems to be on a planet apart from the rest of the paper – spelt it out a week ago: Hong Kong as an economy and a society would be better off without its ‘tourism industry’.

Dire apocalyptic vision of Hong Kong’s hellish fate if this tourism lunacy continues: an abandoned ship adrift and full of crazed, starving rats consuming each other alive.

Good news for the hordes of tourists who come up to Hollywood Road to take photos of a historic monument only to find that it is forever wrapped up in heavy-duty construction netting: the old Police Station, formerly grey and peeling, is unveiled in sparkling neo-classical white. Now please proceed to Lyndhurst Terrace to block the sidewalk and take selfies outside the egg tart shop.

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21 Responses to Greg So hijacks SCMP editorial column, not many hurt

  1. Sojourner says:

    “The invisible hand of the free market will strike the right balance.”

    Aw, bless. Such naive faith in the mechanisms of something that has never existed, and probably never will exist, is truly touching.

  2. Gumshoe says:

    I may be a man with a BS in econ who loved the classical theory and pretty much still believes in it to an extent, but I still understand that the “invisible hand” can sometimes take a very visible form when people get fed up (underfed? because restaurants are closing to open watch and bag shops) with what is known in the biz as “bullshit”. The turned over tour buses and violent outbursts will be coming soon.

    I’ve been forced out of the US economically and found a job here. Now, will I be forced out physically when my starving and desiccated (though decadently dressed in designer shoes/suit) corpse is pushed into the causeway between HK and China? Probably.

  3. Mary Hinge says:

    Could not agree more, Hemmers. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and, when I got to the “invisible hand of the free market” part, shaking with anger.

    And this rubbish is published at a time when SCMP are beginning to pester me about renewal of my on-line subscription. Sorry SCMP folks, but it’s Google Chrome plus Incognito Tab from now on for browsing your site.

  4. Ex Tax Payer says:

    ETP got it right several days ago:

    What we need is TPZs : Tourist Processing Zones a al SEZ on the very fringe of the HK/ Mainland (= Shenzhen) border

    Or rather MTPZs

    M= Mainland

    Short of that we will soon have a revolution from normal, quiet, home-abiding / local -shopping HK residents which will totally eclipse the “occupy Central’ campaign

    SHIT … I am tired of falling over pull-along travel suitcases bearing Mainland tourists where I live, not to mention the litter they leave behind

  5. maugrim says:

    I had the misfortune to be in Mongkok twice over the past week. God help HK if the crowds of today are likely to get worse. Prize Mart stores have become a sort of Mainland Costco, with the Mongkok store experiencing a queue of suitacase toting travellers that extended to Argyle St. Spreading the benefits indeed, tosser.

  6. Ex Tax Payer says:

    @ Maugrim et al

    Heck … I have nothing against Mainlanders per se .. ZILCH !

    Just that we simply cannot accommodate so many at one place and at one time

  7. nulle says:

    Prize Mart is becoming a sort of mainland Costco, given it sells quite a bit of Costco products.

    what China is doing is to piss off the citizenry and CY Leung will exec order and activate Article 23 plus giving the perfect excuse for PLA to invade HK and turn HK into a police state.

    Do you guys want the mess at Northern Terriorities spread all over HK?
    http://ndrandom.wordpress.com/

  8. Joe Blow says:

    I must say, No. 1 Station is looking neat.

    When will the whole project be finished, sort of ?

  9. Cerebos says:

    It’s hardly a mystery. Our bureaucrats are operating under a cloud of fear. No one has the balls to put forward a policy that could in any way be construed as splittist or anti-motherland. Hemlock’s “quart into a pint” metaphor is about as rational as it gets. Someone from the Mainland Affairs bureau (or whatever our quasi-overseeing office is) should just let it be known that it’s OK to put forward policies that are well-intentioned. Unless of course the plan is to silently intimidate the SAR until everything seizes up and we get integrated early for our own good..

  10. Ex Tax Payer says:

    @ Cerebos

    Agreed !

  11. reductio says:

    @nulle

    Thanks for the link. Oh boy, there’s going to be a big ding dong soon and looking at the vids I’d take a bet it’ll be in or around Sheung Shui MTR station. This seems to be attracting the lower end of the “tourist” market. Do the politicians have any idea?

  12. maugrim says:

    nulle, apart from bargains, Prize Mart is a great way to spend without benefitting our usual duopoloy. The Wanchai store has great cognac for half the price it is at PnS and at one stage, had great olive oil. Its become a Philippino’s wet dream of late with all the Hersheys on display.

  13. nulle says:

    @maugrim
    Trust me, the duopoloy shows up in many ways, in actual practice, even the real estate Prize Mart rents contribute to the duopoloy. Gas and Electric companies benefit the duopoloy also.

    But I have to give PrizeMart some credit for buying from Costco, versus the PRC contaminated Chinese crap from PnS.

    I will keep the cognac thing in mind…

    @reductio
    here is another place along with badcanto where you can see what is truly happening in Hong Kong.

    http://therealnewshk.wordpress.com/
    http://badcanto.wordpress.com/


    what pissed me off further is that executives of PRC corp offices in HK automatically granted residency permit for them and their whole family. that’s about 4k new arrivals every year…if HK doesn’t go independent soon, PRC mainland (aka locusts) will outnumber HK citizens.

  14. It is simply untrue that everyone wants a bigger share of the tourism market – Bhutan, for one, tightly restricts the number of incoming tourists. And if the flood of mainlanders brings in $26 billion annually, that works out at approximately $3,700 per head. I think most of us would be willing to sacrifice $3,700 per year to enjoy uncrowded streets and public transport, adequate milk powder supplies, the continued existence of our favourite restaurants, and all the other benefits of keeping out the hordes. It is pointless to proclaim the supposed benefits of pursuing a policy unless one compares them with the benefits of not pursuing it.

  15. The Regulator says:

    Neither Tai Long Wan nor Tung O has yet experienced PRC tourists: no milk powder, candies, biscuits, nappies, liquor, boxed lemon tea or branded clothing to be had in such places.

  16. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Sha Tau Kok, paradoxically, is also free of them.

  17. Regislea says:

    I lived in a place called Mt. Tamborine in Queensland, which was overrun by tourists at weekends – cars and coaches on roads not suitable for the purpose (does any of this sound familiar?).

    Some bright sparks decided that the whole thing would be enhanced if they could build a cable car from the Gold Coast. At the public meeting where they put their case to a very disenchanted citizenry, they kept saying “It’s progress.”

    To which our riposte was, “No – it’s your idea of progress.”

    I think the same applies here.

  18. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Progress to hell.

    That’s my problem with “progressive”. Where exactly do they think we are progressing to?

  19. Alice Poon says:

    I wrote this piece “The Deluge Ahead” in July 2013:-

    http://www.asiasentinel.com/alice-poon/hong-kong-current-events/the-deluge-ahead/

  20. Headache says:

    TFF, you beat me to it. Tolkien used to say that to his kids. He may not have been the first, of course.

  21. P.A. Crush (Sha Tin) says:

    I object to that SCMP headline “Expand Facilities to Handle Crush”.

    P. A. Crush
    Sha Tin

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