Another hub for Hong Kong

Since most right-thinking people ignore Hong Kong’s annual policy address, no-one noticed the vomit-inducing phrase ‘post-doctoral hub’ in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s 2017 speech. But there it was, in paragraph 72 (here, if you’re really bored).

The visionary idea now becomes a reality. The taxpayer will give companies HK$32,000 a month for hiring PhD ‘talent’. Silicon Valley’s top brains will swarm here, and Hong Kong will then flourish as a space-age STEM Tech Innovation mega-zone. (There’s a parallel scheme called the ‘Reindustrialization blah-blah Thing’, which trains 10-year-olds to assemble plastic flowers.)

The good news is that the scheme follows a familiar self-defeating loop pattern. The bureaucrats announce a grand-sounding benefit with a hefty budget, but impose so many conditions that few applicants ultimately succeed in getting their hands on the money.

Curiously, the companies concerned must already be receiving government handouts, either through a (different, existing) funding system or through cheap rents at science parks. This suggests that small start-ups that might in theory benefit from some help with salaries can get lost. Also, you have to hire someone with an actual science/tech PhD from an approved list of World’s Top 100 Oh-So High-Class Universities. Self-taught basement-dwelling geek geniuses (or anyone who went to a riffraff school in a developing country) won’t do.

So taxpayers can relax – not much chance of serious fiscal harm.

The South China Morning Post digs up loads of experts whining for yet more handouts, but also suggests that the new subsidies might lure researchers out of universities into commercial (or at least trying-to-be) enterprises. It also mentions a Shenzhen policy of offering overseas ‘talent’ zillions of yuan, plus housing, neck massages for pets, etc.

Sadly, the papers do not ask the government what they are actually trying to do here. The official premise is that there is a worldwide scramble for ‘talent’ and a ‘global innovation and technology race’, and Hong Kong must take part. But is there? And must we?

Firstly, what do they mean by ‘tech’? Is it the search for Nobel-winning breakthroughs in quantum physics and molecular biology? In which case, can Hong Kong seriously ever be a player? Or is it just apps that do old things in new ways, like ‘fintech’ instead of a bank, or Taobao instead of the 1897 Sears Roebuck Catalog? In which case, where do PhDs come in?

Most of all, why is government so obsessed with Hong Kong’s ‘competitiveness’ in specific sectors? If it’s not inno-tech, Hong Kong has to be a creative industry hub, a medical tourism hub, a Chinese medicine hub, a wine hub, cruise hub, etc. (Another in the pipeline is ‘maritime leasing’, because we are failing to keep up with the Marshall Islands.) If it’s scumbags looking for tax-breaks or cheap land, why are officials so receptive? If it’s a genuine problem with Hong Kong’s attraction as a place to live and do business, why not fix the housing, air, schools? (Dumb question.)

If you still want to apply, you go through the Innovation and Technology Commission Funding Administrative System. And yes, it’s password-protected! Can’t make this up.


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7 Responses to Another hub for Hong Kong

  1. Not A Political Decision says:

    Not a word about that amazing double page regarding His Holiness Dorje Chang Buddha III in the substandard ?

  2. Around 1989, a senior teacher led me onto the roof of a school in East Kowloon.

    Yes, I have been with the people.

    “Come 1997, these people will disappear up their own arses,” he said.

    The most delightful thing about this is that it is now coming true.

    How wonderful to see a people get what they really deserve: slit by slit, cut by cut, sliver by sliver.

    The odd thing about this is that you do not seem to be rejoicing.

    I always detect a note of slight anguish, peevishness, pique and disappointment in your writing.

    Bang a gong and get it on say Docta G and many others, even some of your readers I shoud think.

  3. old git says:

    The criteria for any funding grant from Innovation and Technology Commission are and have always been, that the recipient must be making money already and that anything innovative belongs to the Government, not the person who was the innovator.

  4. Can the government point to a single example anywhere in the world of a successful “technology hub” developed by government edict rather than arising from a fortuitous combination of favourable circumstances?

  5. HillnotPeak says:

    The website of the Innovation and Technology Commission Funding Administrative System 2 is beautiful done. That will attract talent for sure.
    PS I love the pop up message ‘Please visit the old system for system functions of the Small Entrepreneur Research Assistance Programme (SERAP)’. All very hi tech.

  6. Bozworth says:

    You could not even guess how hard it is to make this up: The “new” website now has a popup message directing people interested in this gorgeous new mouth-watering scheme to an “old” website. That opens a page which tells you you have to go to the “new” one. The link there takes you straight back to the awe-inspiring “go to the old site” message again. Thrilling. And just think what a lot of trouble our government has gone to to put us on this Disney-like merry-go-round. I’m heaps charmed, for one.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    An entrepreneur-focused endeavor run by hide bound civil servants: what can possibly go wrong ?

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