Mixed reports on Hong Kong’s counter-tourism measures, today…
The good news is that retail sales continue to fall. By ‘retail sales’, we mean the peddling of overpriced crap to dimwitted tourists – which by extension means rents for stores in tacky malls and once-pleasant residential neighbourhoods. The South China Moaning Post writes of the 24th straight month of misery for landlords as if we are all supposed to burst into tears. Right-thinking people will only say: more please.
The bad news is that this encouraging trend is under threat. Hong Kong has slipped down the Not Smiling At Dimwitted Tourists Global Charts, losing its magnificent top place to Macau. In fairness, Former Portuguese Enclave City has even more reason to give invading hordes the Hostile Scowling ‘Go Home’ treatment than Hongkongers do. But God forbid that we are seeing the start of a drop in standards – if we’re not careful, overseas visitors might start feeling welcome. We all shudder at the thought.
Meanwhile, our Chief Executive-to-be Carrie Lam is repeating earlier comments about how God told her to take the job. Indeed, it seems that the invisible Supreme Being was quite insistent, even though Carrie herself didn’t want to do it. Sounds like a pretty definitive way for her to shift the blame later if and when everything collapses around her.
An almost-apocalyptic analysis of the challenge she faces comes from the SCMP’s Peter Guy, who sees Hong Kong’s pyramid-scheme property market eventually squeezing all other life out of the city. As he points out, spiraling housing prices reduce purchasing power for much of the population, ultimately leading to ‘permanent secular stagnation or chronic lack of demand’.
This of course brings us rather neatly back to where we came in – the plight of our retail sector. Local people spend so much on accommodation that they can’t afford to spend much in the stores. The landlords want to have their cake and eat it by filling the shops full of tourists instead. The local people take revenge by being rude to tourists. Can God help Carrie find a way out of this conundrum? He wasn’t there for her when she went through her toilet paper agonies, which raises the distinct possibility that He steers clear of retail/shopping and indeed commercial matters in general. As indeed He should.
I declare the weekend open with an even more cosmic revelation: China has solved the dilemma known to economists as the ‘impossible trinity’. The theory is that a country may have two out of three of: a free flow of capital, a fixed exchange rate, and control of its own interest rates. The SCMP reports that Chinese bankers claim to have cracked it – which is the equivalent of physicists devising a perpetual-motion machine.
‘Ah’ – you say – ‘but China does not have a free flow of capital’.
Hmmm… OK. Slight change in headline needed…