How to get rich from being poor in HK

As you can tell from the public crucifixions of politicians with illegal extensions on their homes, Hong Kong gets emotional about people who wangle living space without suffering the requisite financial hardship. It doesn’t have to be a luxury villa with an unauthorized swimming pool – public-housing tenants with middle-class levels of wealth are widely detested. Behold the lady living in one of those impoverished, suicide-ridden Tin Shui Wai estates who owns four apartments worth HK$11 million. (Leave aside the fact you can’t currently buy four pigsties for 11 million.)

The popular outraged mouth-frothing reaction is: how dare rich people use housing intended for the poor? But in a way the question is: how dare poor people leverage access to cheap housing in order to get rich?

The reason some public-housing tenants are relatively well-off is precisely because they have escaped the clutches of the private-sector landlords and developers – and have therefore been able to accumulate wealth.

You hear stories of university graduates who work five years at McDonalds to qualify for a public-housing unit. It is a tribute to their economic rationality. Once you get the ultra-cheap home, you can get a better job – no-one will come and means-test you. While all the other suckers are spending 50% of their income on rent or mortgage for decades, you can save, save, save, buy a BMW and send your kid to school overseas.

Thanks to the way the government has mismanaged the land/housing issue, the suckers’ private-sector flats are even smaller than your public one.

I declare the midweek-weekend open with a few links.

If you have any savings in HK dollars, don’t don’t DON’T read this. It’s on Hong Kong’s looming mega-collapse, by hedge-fund guy J Kyle Bass of Big Short fame. Some of his points are questionable. Among his other calls have been the (ever-) looming collapse of Japan and the wondrousness of (pre-default) Argentine bonds. He’s also OK with being seen in public with the toxic dishevelment that is Steve Bannon. Problem is – that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

If you need cheering-up after that, and for fans of ‘Separated at Birth’, here’s an embarrassment of HK look-alike riches. Some are horrifyingly accurate.

On the culinary front… For as long as I can remember, eating at Thai restaurants has always involved scornfully/irritably discouraging everyone else from requesting pad thai. Guileless companions seem to think it is almost a mark of cultural sophistication to order it, while my free-thinking (and in all modesty, inerrant) instincts tell me that the unnecessarily sweetened noodles do not belong. At last – I am vindicated. The stuff is “not historically a traditional dish in Thailand … [but] imposed upon the populace almost 80 years ago as a cornerstone ingredient of a nationalistic agenda”. Thank you.

While we’re in Southeast Asia (and talking of crucifixions and popular outraged mouth-frothing)… Decent civilized people have attacked the Sultan of Brunei for approving (in theory) stoning to death for adulterers and gays. Here’s a different angle: why not instead blame the Brunei public who demand it?

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