While everyone’s up in Beijing attending the ultimate time-wasting ritual that is the Lianghui (two weeks, for heaven’s sake), let’s ask a slightly pointed question. Would Hong Kong be a better place if we let a bunch of five-year-olds run it? They could sit in the dirt and make mud pies. OK, it wouldn’t actually achieve anything – but at least it wouldn’t cost much. As it is, we are spending lots of time, money and effort getting nothing productive done.
Consider Chief Executive CY Leung’s obsession with starting up some sort of innovation and technology thingummy doodah whatchamacallit. If memory serves, this was one of the less-interesting bits of his ‘election platform’. Pro-democracy legislators filibustered his administration’s strenuous attempts to establish an Innovation and Technology Bureau, not because it was pointless, but simply because they could. (If CY put forward a motion stating that the world was round, they would oppose it.) So he has now done the devious next best thing and appointed a Tech Supremo, the hitherto unknown Nicholas Yang. The pro-dems are against this, again not because it’s pointless – which would be too much hard work to explain – but in a fit of pique because they can’t veto the appointment.
That’s because it’s not an official role as such. Mr Yang is supposed to advise on the vision-competitiveness-tech thing. He also gets a seat on the already crowded and seemingly inconsequential Executive Council. The South China Morning Post quotes CY as raving about ‘pro bono advisor’ Nicholas’s ‘personal networks’, while the Standard tells us that that the position is ‘unsalaried’ but comes with an honorarium of HK$76,510 a month. I have received one or two honoraria (Latin for ‘beer money’) myself in the past. In my experience, they were: one-offs rather than regular; nice round sums rather than Civil Service Pay Scale-precise; non-taxable (I think – at least I didn’t declare them, ha ha); and, most of all, nowhere near 76 grand. But then I’m not a tech guru advisor vision czar supremo.
For all we know, Nicholas Yang is a mega-geek – maybe a whizz at Ruby On Rails or some other unfathomable techie coding stuff. Or maybe he really has some amazing Darwin- or Einstein-scale insight about how science can transform Hong Kong. But the chances are that a big fat juicy zilch is the most likely outcome from all this. The government rigs the economy so the most rewards go to people who rent out shop-fronts to wholesalers of milk-powder to cross-border smugglers, and then it starts bleating about innovation and tech. At best, it seems like an elaborate and tedious way to prove a point in order to irritate the pro-dems, who predictably can’t miss an opportunity to get miffed when completely ignoring the whole charade would be so much more cool.
Meanwhile, an ever-so important Working Group produces guidelines on how and when the government should dip into the Future Fund, a smallish (HK$200 billion) chunk of the total accumulated reserves that has for no obvious reason been delineated as a separate stash of money and given the label ‘Future Fund’ to distinguish it (or perhaps divert attention) from the other trillion or so bucks that presumably now make up the ‘Non-Future Fund’. The Working Group says this particular wodge of cash is to be ‘locked up for 10 years and used only for absolutely essential items’, which sounds like exactly the fate of the rest of the reserves. (‘By ‘absolutely essential’, we mean far, far more important than food, health, shelter or clean air – more essential than you could possibly believe.)
No-one knows why the Hong Kong government sucks such huge amounts of wealth out of the economy year after year only to sit on it. It seems to come down to an ancient colonial bureaucratic – almost monarchical – mentality that the ‘government’ is a separate entity with entirely different and indeed opposing interests from the population and economy. It’s the same deranged thinking that leads the bureaucracy to go to such lengths to prevent people from having access to space in which to live and to make a living (make a huge up-front deposit into the reserves, and give a similar slice to a developer, and only then may you start a business or family). The government must preserve and protect ‘its’ resources and keep them safe from its deadly rivals, the inhabitants.
Rather than ask what the hell’s going on – like can we have our money back please? – everyone is getting worked up about how to invest this HK$200 billion with a special label. The Working Group, in all its importance and wisdom, also says the fund will not produce guaranteed returns, which is exactly what it would say if it was reading from a script prepared by bureaucrats who know that whatever they do will be a disaster. One lawmaker suggests an annual report on how this new Special Label Fund performs and even hopes it could be used for ‘meaningful projects’. But he represents the finance sector and obviously knows nothing about these things.
While we’re waiting for our betters to come back from Beijing and resume their amazingly useful work, here’s all you need to know about ‘Why World Cares’ so avidly about the Two Sessions (hint: ‘opportunity to watch the oriental country’).
Thanks for posting the axing us link, Hemlock. I wasn’t t I excited about the two sessions, but I am now!
‘asking’ = ‘Xinhua’
Loving the photo montage header this week.
I reckon CY is thinking “what does pro-bono mean again?”
Anyway, surely HKSARG are hoarding cash at Beijing’s behest. This is contingency for future invasions of Taiwan, war with Japan, etc. We must all do our bit! I’m so proud to pay my taxes to this administration.
As the forces of Mordor gather… CY Gandalf implores us to “look to my coming, at dawn on the fifth day”…
How come China is the worlds biggest blah blah and the best blah blah and the most educated blah blah but can’t get someone to write correct English copy ?
Eleven EXISTING government departments already handling IT:
Applied Science and Technology Research Institute
Commerce and Economic Development Bureau
Innovation and Technology Commission
Communications and Technology Branch
Economic Analysis and Business Facilitation Unit (part of John Tsang’s world)
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation
Innovation and Technology Commission
Internet Registration Corporation Limited
Office of the Government Chief Information Officer
Office of the Communications Authority
Commissioner on Interception of Communications and Surveillance
Read ’em and feel relieved your tax dollars are so wisely allocated.
I’m sure there’s a ton of space for another techie one.
You mentioned “Innovation and Technology Commission” twice. I think the second one was meant to be “Technology and Innovation Commission” …
Hey folks, I think CY should have said pro-boner because of this new techie ding dong he’s appointed!
“During the Cultural Revolution, which started in the 1960s, lawless chaos engulfed the nation and the two sessions lay dormant, and this instability sent shockwaves across the globe.” Yeah…shockwaves like Rock ‘n Roll, Woodstock, Flared bellbottoms, America’s loss in Vietnam, wild experimental sex, birth of the porn movie industry, etc.
In other words…no one gave a crap while the Chinese were beating and berating their own and destroying their “5,000 years of glorious culture”.
Jake Van Der Kamp likes to say the Capital Works Reserve Fund was created out of embarrassment from having such large surpluses. Oh, this money? What are we going to do with it? Um. Infrastructure. Yes. Right. We’re going to set it aside for infrastructure. Very important, you know. Can’t go frittering it away on handouts for capitalism’s victims, I mean, losers. Breeds laziness, doesn’t it?
The Future Fund sounds like the same thing all over again, only this time they’ve devised an excuse to hoard money for an abstract concept that doesn’t exist and by definition will never arrive. What is it for? The future! When are we going to use it? In the future! When is the future? Not now! Is it the future yet? No!
I expect in the coming years, the Capital Works Reserve Fund and the Future Fund will be joined by other ring-fenced budgets such as the What If We Get Hit By An Asteroid Fund, the Zombie Apocalypse Fund, the Emergency Pants Fund, and the Help John Tsang’s Mustache Plot World Domination Fund.
yes i had to look it up. a bunch of babble to make coding geeks feel better? didn’t get past home page.
let me guess, “urgent” essential works funded from the “future fund”:
– the fast train to nowhere no one in hk will use
– the bridge to nowhere no one in hk will use
– a school in shenzhen no one in hk will use
– a hospital in shenzhen no one in hk will use
feel free to add to this very important urgent essential thingymyjigs.
@reductio ’tis the Mainland way, if said incorrectly loud enough long enough and enough places, it will magically will become correct through the miracles of the Gospels of Mao