The Working Group on Long Term ‘Not Scaring People’ report appears, prompting a great screeching of headlines about Hong Kong turning into the next Greece, and government spending at double the level of revenues. The South China Morning Post provides a swift debunking of the exercise: it’s based on ‘lunatic’ increases in infrastructure spending (enough to build four new runways a year by 2041). As a footnote tucked away at the bottom of page 53 puts it…
The doomsday Greece scenario is the worst case; others are less ludicrous (you can choose your own macroeconomic and expenditure combinations – Fun for All the Family!) But the basic assumption is that we must forever go on shoveling a vast share of public wealth into the pockets of concrete-laying tycoons, and if the rabble want anything else they’ll have to pay extra.
What is most shocking here is that it is so clumsily done. As with the consultation paper years ago on a sales tax – which completely ignored the existence of land sales and premiums – it insults the public’s intelligence. It is so transparent and blatant a pile of BS that you could almost believe it is an act of sabotage, designed to fail. Perhaps a less fanciful view is that the bureaucrat-tycoon nexus is getting desperate and lapsing into gross exaggeration and scaremongering in a bid to keep the infrastructure trough at least half-full in coming decades. We could consider the possibility that the civil servants and poodle-academics on the task force actually believe what they are saying – but that’s really scary. (Is it just me or do they looked sort of drugged?)
The contradictions verge on the surreal. What does an ageing population, too frail to walk more than a few steps unaided, do with even more roads, bridges and tunnels? With no money for welfare or hospitals, maybe we will get a bridge each in our retirement to sleep under, and a personal tunnel we can crawl into to die.
A bus company executive writes an op-ed in the SCMP gently wondering why the government’s transport policy rests on blindly trying to accommodate whatever volume of traffic appears, rather than curbing the number of vehicles. Laziness and stupidity are two obvious reasons, and let’s not forget the fact that a large number of the idiots clogging up the streets in their cars are the civil servants in charge. But, as the Working Group on Long Term Fiscal Freak-out report indicates, there is a serious mental unhinging behind all this – even allowing for vested interests and other motives for bad policy.
It’s as if government economic policymaking has been taken over by a robot with a short-circuit: must have more tourists, must create jobs, must have more infrastructure, must import labour, must have more tourists, must create jobs… The system has forgotten what the economy is for. Or it has malfunctioned, and now operates automatically on the premise that the purpose of the economy is to generate up-front financing for pointless infrastructure projects. And this brings us neatly to proof from Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Greg So, who is quoted in a little item on Mainland visitors…
There you have it: economic development and the livelihood of the people are two different things. Not just different, but diametrically opposed – economic development damages the well-being of the people. Therefore we have to ‘strike a balance’ (damaging the well-being of the people being necessary to some degree, you see). I doubt even Greek officials have such frighteningly dislocated logic.
I’m for once speechless! When the HK epitaph comes to be written, keen doctoral students will surely pinpoint today as the beginning of the end, the tipping point, when the butterfly effect started — and your piece as the writing on the wall.
Logic? With a Government who wrings their hands about a forward estimate, having had all previous estimates proved as being wrong, weeping about a structural deficit in years hence. Lawks a lawdy, a structural deficit. This is of course, despite the years of accumulated massive surpluses, but lets not let perspective get in the way. The logic used by a Government that intones about an ageing population and the need to develop related services and perhaps infrastructure, who’s major policy announcement is to build three hotels on a partly used cruise terminal that sits alongside a feoted nullah. The logic used by a Government that is experiencing protests about the sheer number of visitors, MTR at capacity, hell, even the China Daily agrees, that tut tuts and waves a finger about jobs. A Government that is able to project about societal needs owing to a rise in elderly residents, but has no knowledge of the impact of allowing thousands of low-skilled immigrants into the Territory and consequent effects upon social and other services. Chee seen.
I think you may be converting to socialism in your old age. Long overdue.
At the equivalent of four new runways per year HK will soon become just one flat, featureless sea of concrete (rather like Singapore today ut without the occasional hillock)
No more need for bridges and tunnels – nor even roads. We can walk anywhere and everywhere, planes can land anywhere and everywhere.
Isiah 40:40 “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain”
Where is the Bowen Road dog poisoner when really needed ?
Could someone give him the private address of our FS so as to put him ( and us) out of our misery ?
And on another thing that gets my goat. These fuckers, with their foreign passports, their kids in overseas private schools , families ensconsed abroad, that all have escape plans to more comfortable locales have the sheer hide to tell us to grin and bear it.
It’s all really starting to stick in the throat. My idiot Dachshund has more guile and imagination than the entire administration out together. At least when he finds a free lunch he doesn’t gleefully bury his face in the trough and shamelessly scarf the lot – he knows I’ll boot him off it in no time. These guys on the other hand seem completely unaware that the purpose of their job is to administer public resources for the benefit if the public. Zero accountability breeds in efficiency and arrogance. Maybe there’s a parallel world where the city we love is also well-run. Imagine how amazon it would be?
Bollocks to autocorrect. Apologies to all for obvious typos.
This is Hong Kong’s version of a classic Washington D.C. trial balloon, where a controversial or indefensible course of action is floated out to the press by an anonymous “knowledgeable insider.” The public relations plant’s purpose is to test whether opponents can muster the strength to make a big fuss, in which case the bureaucrats can climb down from their position in favour of PE without ever having stuck their necks out.
Here in Hong Kong, they don’t even have the shame to hide behind anonymity and the press, but brazenly display their contempt for the a neutered brainless parties that claim to represent the public.
This brought back memories of Claudia Mo giving the government hell.
They must have taken her message about the 4th Estate to heart, and are taking action on it (Ming Pao’s editor). Are Tom & Jake next?
Having to deal with what’s going on in the US AND what’s going on here? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stdi-1tIUhM
As for less cars, I’d love to see less cars. As a car owner, I would give up my car tomorrow if it meant less traffic and government run (Looking out for citizens, of course) MTR would send more than one bus to the ENTIRE Tai Tong area to service the thousands of people living there.
As for the politicians themselves? No hope.
“which completely ignored the existence of land sales and premiums”
As a matter of fact, land sale revenue (including lease modification premiums) is automatically put into the Capital Works Reserve Fund, which is specifically earmarked for infrastructure spending.
Why now and what’s the point? You have a one term Chief Executive, widely reviled, with no mandate, who, has yet, presided over a seismic increase in old age and poverty allowances. You have a Civil Service who, judging by past performance, couldn’t give a flying fuck about the livelihood of pensioners and the poor. So is this pantomime being played out by the civil service to say to future political leaders, who may or may not have a democratic mandate, that this is not the way things are done in the Big Lychee?
Who benefits? If the document was done well – then OK – a timely warning that we will have no socialism (with Chinese characteristics) in Hong Kong please. But it wasn’t and you could drive a bus through some of presumptions. So the FS and his cheerleaders reinforce the perception, many of us have, that they couldn’t organize a pissup in a brewery. The obvious benefactors – The Property / Construction cartels have been seen for what they are and this will be further reinforced from May (beginning of the Sun Hung Kai / former CS trial).
Perhaps, if played well, the wolf, by sacking his FS and tossing this report in the trash, could come out of this looking good. However it’s unlikely as he and most of the political parties have so little political talent to tap the public mood that my fear is too many people for their own good might just believe this horseshite.
It does seem odd that our dear leaders are suggesting on the one hand that we will need to import vast quantities of overseas labour because we don’t have enough workers of our own, and on the other hand insisting that we need ever more tourists because they create jobs for our apparently non-existent workers. Simply stop more tourists coming and we won’t need to bring in more workers from overseas, thereby making a double reduction in Hong Kong’s overcrowding.
Hey look what Adam Smith had to say “It is the highest impertinence and presumption… in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense… They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will.”
That Adam Smith sounds a clever bloke. He should write a book.
Message to Greg So:
Discussing HK’s policies on economic development with the CPG is tantamount to an invitation to them to breach Article 22 of the Basic Law:
No department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.
With you all the way Man…. flying fuck and all
Roll on the trial (hopefully it will beat Albert Ho’s girlie pics scandal hands down)
PS : But if you, gentle readers of Hemmers, think things have just hit rock bottom in The Big Lychee , take a hold of John Sweeney’s “North Korea Undercover” ( Bantam press). Remember that BBC Panorama film “scandal” last summer, smuggling in John Sweeney and two cameramen into the DPRK along with a group of LSE students ? Well the book goes far beyond that, drawing on Sweeney’s lifetime work to research despotic regimes. I have never before read a book that that is as revolting, horrific and just plain disgusting (insofar as how badly man can treat fellow man) .
Makes Auschwitz seem like a Butlins holiday camp.
So despite Tsang’s BS , we have a long way to go down before we really do hit rock bottom. Thank heaven for small mercies .
Saw a convoy of trucks filled with PLA heading toward the base in Kam Sheung this morning. When is Occupy Central again?
Agreed tax payer, but never mind North Korea, we should just thank god and heaven we don’t live on Mars. I mean, we all know the environment here in HK is horrendous but it doesn’t compare to the low atmospheric pressure and month long dust storms on the Martian surface.
Look, Tsang and co. are utter a**es and collectively wouldn’t have the financial nous to run a 7-11 effectively but Mars doesn’t even HAVE an economy and even less evidence of intelligent life than HK itself so Tsang can’t be that bad, right?
Enjoy Tom Holland’s astuteness while you can – it’s his last week at the Post (seriously). We’re thinking of letting Georgey boy Chen play with his crayons as his replacement.