Personal finance updates

The Hong Kong community is currently devoting millions of man-hours to working out the clunky registration, multi-stage collection and relatively straightforward but restrictive expenditure details of the government’s Consumption Voucher Scheme, which was originally intended to boost the economy during Covid, but somehow morphed into an attempt to force people to adopt digital payment systems. 

HKFP bravely attempts to explain how to get your HK$5,000 (unless you’re an overseas domestic helper, of course). 

The bureaucrats designing this mess are clearly trying to torment the elderly who don’t have smartphones or home PCs, and can’t get out much. More generally, the aim seems to be to force people to spend on goods at tycoon-owned supermarkets and convenience stores, rather than buy from market stalls – or just save the money.

Despite the bureaucrats’ best efforts, most recipients will spend the hand-out in ways that offset other income; the amount of normal Octopus card top-ups will plummet as people leave money in the bank. Hongkongers’ natural cunning in such matters will no doubt enable them to find ways to convert voucher ‘purchases’ into plain cash.

Among forbidden uses of the hand-outs: donating it to charity. We can’t fritter away good sound wealth on the underprivileged when we have starving property plutocrats to look after.

This is a purely autonomous non-CCP-dictated scheme – a reminder of how, even pre-NatSec Regime, we were truly being run by malevolent morons. 

Whose money is it, anyway?

On the subject of good sound wealth… This is off-topic and for masochists only, following some earnest debate about cryptocurrencies in the comments section. 

(Background: my curiosity about crypto extends from a general fascination with the wacky world where mental-health issues, conspiracy theories and grift overlap, from QAnon to anti-science health fads to End Time preppers to Scientology. Maybe gawking at these people gives me the entertainment thrills Victorians got from viewing the inmates in asylums.)

My humble advice: how ever much you might find today’s monetary policies annoying, avoid crypto – it’s just digital Monopoly money manipulated by scammers. These are not currencies. Many of us in Hong Kong would love a way to place our cash out of the CCP’s grasp, but a magic-beans Ponzi scheme isn’t it. Nor is crypto an investment. It has zero fundamental worth or connection to the real economy. (And can you imagine proponents of, say, emerging-markets bonds reacting so defensively, or at all, the second anyone criticizes their pet asset class?)

For anyone tempted, Stephen Diehl’s threads are quick reads: How crypto is like a pyramid scheme and how they end; what ‘stablecoins’ like Tether are for, and why they’re a scam; and some examples of how blockchain makes simple financial processes absurdly complicated. He actually proposes a ban on crypto to protect gullible investors and gambling addicts. Fanatical HODLers will rail at these. Just smile politely and walk on. 

We’re not touching on: ransomware/money-laundering; the utterly deranged ‘proof of work’-type processes through which miners gobble up vast resources solving pointless puzzles to compete to log transactions; the Elon-worshipping, proselytizing and cult-like aspects of the crypto movement (a feature of some other pyramid schemes); or the stale far-right conspiracy theories about central bankers and ‘fiat’ that lurk in the background. As entertainment, it’s brilliant.

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37 Responses to Personal finance updates

  1. Low Profile says:

    The poor unfortunates in Bedlam were generally not trying to persuade the rest of the world that their personal brand of lunacy was actually everyone’s reality, unlike the QAnon conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, Acopalypse pushers and Scientologists of today. The lunatics may not quite have taken over the asylum (though they controlled a large chunk of it for 4 years), but they are having a damn good try.

    As for crypto-currencies, the value of any currency ultimately derives from public confidence in it. Expect at least one of these bizarre constructions to fail, whereupon confidence in the others will be severely dented.

  2. A Simple Minded Man says:

    Mark Bradley – Belated thanks for your comments last week. I find it ironic and hilarious that you recommended a wallet named Exodus since the coming local exodus is what got me interested in crytocurrencies to begin with. It is definitely the one I will go with.

  3. Simplicissimus says:

    Bitcoin : Webb did a comprehensive and cogent piece on Bitcoin in 2017 and I have taken the liberty of attaching here. It explains even to a simpleton such as I – all you need to know – and avoid like the plague or COVID-19.

    https://webb-site.com/articles/bitcoinponzi.asp

  4. HKMAboy says:

    “More generally, the aim seems to be to force people to spend on goods at tycoon-owned supermarkets and convenience stores, rather than buy from market stalls – or just save the money.”

    One would think with your intimate experience in government and finance infrastructure / monetary policy affairs in Hong Kong, you would hesitate before throwing this bait out there. Really the reason this is happening is because you can not get any market stall operators to concede to the Octopus and other epayments uptake. Given the all cash business they thrive on, and the hold that triads have on the inner workings of the business, it’s not for want of trying.

  5. Member #4 of the Mark Bradley Fan Club says:

    Yes but you are forgetting that our very own Mark “craptocurrency” Bradley has the brain the size of a planet. Moreover, his motivation is to one day be so rich his brothers/kids who he grew up, who when he was young would regularly pummel-flat his head, will be so jealous they wished they’d never, ever, ever, ever, done it. Bradders IS going to show them (and us).

  6. getalife says:

    Seems Hemlock took umbrage at the claim he sounds like a gadfly and blowhard when he attempts to ridicule Bitcoin.

    Problem with his links is that all of them contain uncertainty-inspiring misinformation.

    Crypto, surely, has many coins that behave like Ponzi schemes. Bitcoin is not “other cryptocurrencies,” though, and behaves in a completely different way. The energy being consumed is already energy that has been made, so, rather than “creating new energy” and utilising and wasting resources, it’s actually making energy consumption more efficient. And over 60% of bitcoin mining has been, or is being moved into, sustainable and green architecture / infrastructure.

    When you just go through the web during the weekend and try to find validation to bolster your bias and your complete ignorance about it, you simply look more stupid. I used to be a fan, hemlock, but this kind of bullshit link farming is stupid. Most of that stuff is incorrect and has already been debated and corrected over the past seven to ten years.

  7. Low Profile says:

    @getalife – I find your statement that “The energy being consumed is already energy that has been made” incomprehensible. No energy can be consumed unless it has first been produced, but by its nature, electrical energy is generally produced as and when required, since it is expensive and difficult to store on a large scale. Are you saying this is spare energy just sitting around waiting for Bitcoin miners to consume it? How and where is it stored? Has Elon Musk developed some secret Bitcoin Battery technology that we don’t know about? Even so, there is still a cost to producing the energy in the first place. Please explain.

  8. Henry says:

    Dear Getalife

    The energy being consumed is already energy that has been made, so, rather than “creating new energy” and utilising and wasting resources, it’s actually making energy consumption more efficient.

    What a load of complete and utter horseshit.

  9. getalife says:

    Low Profile: It is capturing spare unused energy from the capacity creating it already. Here is an example:

    Crusoe Energy’s Bitcoin mining systems (I believe these are in North America) are slashing CO2 emissions from gas flaring by up to 63%.

    There current format is reducing emissions that are the equivalent of taking 1,700 cars off the road.

  10. getalife says:

    Henry: it’s not horseshit or horse hide. You just willingly digest legacy mainstream media narratives that are NOT researched and are not keeping up with the green profiles being generated by crypto miners.

    Stop being an utterly stupid sheep.

  11. Reactor #4 says:

    @Low Profile

    This character “getalife” is what all such schemes rely upon. A first-class dimwit. The poor chap will, unfortunately, likely get a good mugging. However, there comes a point in one’s life where you give up on advising people/pointing our their inadequacies (on their alcoholism, gambling, ridiculous romantic liaisons, get-rich-quick obsessions etc.) and switch to being a voyeur. Let the car crash commence.

  12. Kwun Tong Bypass says:

    @getalife;
    “The energy being consumed is already energy that has been made, so, rather than “creating new energy” and utilising and wasting resources, it’s actually making energy consumption more efficient….”

    Hmmmm……..I second @Low Profile, can you elaborate?

    On the 5 K;
    Can anybody explain why “new arrivals from the mainland, and people sponsored by Hong Kong permanent resident” should get the 5K? Do we see 1.38 billion mainlanders getting sponsored?

  13. Big Al says:

    @Henry – damnit, you beat me to it!

  14. Low Profile says:

    @getalife – leaving aside the fact that you only mention one case, which may well not be typical, why is natural gas still being flared anyway instead of being diverted to more useful purposes such as industrial and home heating? I fully agree that we should not be wasting gas, but let’s use it for something more beneficial to society. Incidentally burning gas to create electricity also generates CO2 emissions, so you are not significantly reducing emissions by diverting unused gas to generate electricity to mine Bitcoin,

  15. reductio says:

    So can I load an Octopus card up with my 3K and then sell it for, say, 2.5K in hard cash to somebody else?

  16. later says:

    Low Profile: It’s entirely not within my scope or my time to provide you an exhaustive list, but if you care to take your time, you may find more examples, and plenty. but you haven’t, obviously since you have decided that having only one example means I have no sincere understanding of the issues and can not beat your cynicism. If it was easy to get more information and take time to do it, you would have. You have not, so instead of assuming that it might be beyond your ken, but still legitimate, you take the Hemlock lazy ass way and just assume the whole thing is just as the very industrious, very expert, fully researched media is telling you it is.

    The very same media that no doubt gets the Hong Kong Story correct, and the China Uighur story correct, and the countless other stories correct that they spend fifteen minutes on Google researching and elaborating on and submitting as truth.

  17. Kwun Tong Bypass says:

    @geatlife
    Thanks for ‘gas flaring’ example/explanation. You obviously do not understand how energy works. My advice to you: Stay away from craptos, and do not call others stupid. I guess I now know who is.

  18. Henry says:

    Getalife
    I’m not normally given to personal insults. You comment sure was horseshit, and calling me “utterly useless sheep” doesn’t change that. But if I’m a sheep then you sure are a donkey.

  19. Mark Bradley says:

    Crypto is not comparable things like Qanon because as you said yourself these are people who suffer from mental illness and none of their prophecies came true. The same can not be said about crypto (though it certainly does attract eccentric individuals who refuse to acknowledge the risks and are irrational).

    Listing a bunch of people who have a stake in the traditional financial system is confirmation bias. Despite this institutional players in the traditional financial system are starting to take crypto more seriously. That’s why it is possible to obtain crypto Visa cards and store crypto in a PayPal account. Seems Visa and PayPal have no problems associating with a so called “ponzi”. Jurisdictions all over the world are granting money transmitter licenses to crypto exchanges.

    I am repeating myself here but, crypto such as bitcoin or ethereum are not ponzis; they would have to be centralised for them to be ponzis with a Bernie Sanders mastermind doing everything possible to ensure the wheels don’t fall off. They are high risk commodities though that can reach 0 and it’s absolutely true that someone who bought bitcoin early in its life has an unfair advantage. If nearly everyone decided to dump bitcoin then its price would absolutely collapse completely and the HODLers would be bag holders. But the same holds true for other commodities. Unlike a bitcoin evangelical I am objective enough to acknowledge that reality as well as the reality. The same kind of risk also holds true for leveraged oil futures and other complex derivatives made by the traditional financial world.

    I would never advocate moving a significant portion of any portfolio into crypto. But it doesn’t hurt to have a little bit to play around with and understand especially if you buy it when it is down. I also don’t deny that crypto appeals to gambling addicts especially because many online casinos accept bitcoin. Gambling addicts also love: stock markets, options, and over leveraged instruments in the regulated financial world.

    Unlike a ponzi with no underlying value, bitcoin does have its uses. It is a useful token for buying drugs and other illegal services on the dark web, it is useful for gambling online in jurisdictions where gambling is restricted, it is useful if you need to run a newspaper with a frozen bank account. Yes some of the use cases are indeed criminal. It is what it is.

    Tether is certainly dodgy but other stablecoins have legitimacy and transparency (TrueUSD and DAI) and if you are denied access from the traditional banking system you know have a choice whereas in the past you had none. Crypto’s ability to resist any kind of asset forfeiture is appealing and there are no suitable alternatives to it right now when you are denied access to traditional banking.

    Ethereum is even more useful than Bitcoin because as I stated previously it is possible to run software on its blockchain.

    Banning bitcoin and other crypto is a non starter. It is already banned in China for years but there is a massive crypto sub culture there and they all know how to scale the great firewall to boot as well as how to buy it with Yuan. It also allows them to circumvent capital controls. Banning it will make it harder to obtain bitcoin or other crypto, but peer to peer decentralised markets ensure that determined individuals will continue to have access to it. The overall worldwide trend is regulating it rather than banning it by regulating the exchanges. Jurisdictions banning have been about as successful in stopping crypto as they have been stopping people from using drugs.

    Ultimately we will have to agree to disagree on crypto Hemlock, but that is fine. It doesn’t hurt to read criticisms of crypto (and indeed many are valid such as the issue of proof of work’s environmental problems as well as overall lack of efficiency though proof of stake solves much of this which is what Ethereum is switching to).

    I have been reading your blog faithfully since 2003 because of your spot on understanding of HK politics and Leninist regimes.

  20. Mark Bradley says:

    “ Henry: it’s not horseshit or horse hide. You just willingly digest legacy mainstream media narratives that are NOT researched and are not keeping up with the green profiles being generated by crypto miners.

    Stop being an utterly stupid sheep”

    People here are absolutely correct about their criticism of how inefficient and wasteful proof of work is. There is no such thing as “excess energy” and you know it, that is why you failed to provide a rebuttal and instead insult people and talk about how “mainstream media” is wrong and they are sheep without providing any supporting evidence. Try harder because I am am embarrassed for you and you aren’t helping.

    Power companies provide as much energy as demanded and proof of work mining increases overall energy demands. As others noted, there is no “battery” that stores energy surplus cheaply. While it’s true that you could move your mining operation in a location where the energy production is carbon neutral (nuclear power, hydropower, etc) it doesn’t change the fact that proof of work is slow and inefficient compared to alternatives.

  21. Mark Bradley says:

    “So can I load an Octopus card up with my 3K and then sell it for, say, 2.5K in hard cash to somebody else?”

    Yes. Possibly more. The hksar wasted so much resources on a scheme that can be so easily circumvented.

  22. Mark Bradley says:

    “ The very same media that no doubt gets the Hong Kong Story correct, and the China Uighur story correct, and the countless other stories correct that they spend fifteen minutes on Google researching and elaborating on and submitting as truth.”

    The media has gotten the HK story and Uighur stories mostly right. People who actually live in HK such as myself can attest to this. Never thought I would see a bitcoin evangelist who is also a tankie

  23. reductio says:

    @Mark Bradley

    Christ, if I can think that up then…

  24. Low Profile says:

    @ getalife/later (why the name change?) – no, I didn’t do in-depth research on other crypttocurrencies because a) I have already got a life, thank you; b) you have no idea what I have decided, so don’t make unfounded assumptions about my thought processes; and c) I find it wiser to take my financial and economic information from established expert journals such as Fortune (https://fortune.com/2021/05/13/musk-bitcoin-mining-bad-planet-heres-how-bad/) and the Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/1aecb2db-8f61-427c-a413-3b929291c8ac), rather than some random guy commenting on a blog post and insulting those who disagree with him (that means you).

    I am aware that bitcoin miners are increasingly turning to renewable energy = not, I suspect, from any deep concern for the environment, but because it is becoming more price-competitve with fossil fuels (https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/bitcoin-bad-environment-mining-cryptocurrency-b1846773.html).

    @Mark Bradley – I think you mean Bernie Madoff, not Bernie Sanders!

  25. Chris Maden says:

    1. Cryptos ain’t worth a thing until governments accept them to pay taxes. A government that issues fiat currencies can fulfill its promises by taxing its citizens. That has its limitations – see Latin American hyperinflation – but it’s better than cryptos which have nothing.

    2. Money is both a store of value and a means of exchange. These are inextricably intertwined – if you can’t exchange something, its value is by definition, zero. At the moment, there are vanishingly few real-world things you can buy with cryptos. So they’re basically good for crooks and gamblers.

    3. Energy is not free. A conventional payment transaction takes a few microwatts of power. A crypto payment takes milliwatts and often tens of milliwatts, so is a thousand times more energy intense. It’s basic physics. Happy to back that up with actuals – I’ve been doing payments systems for a very long time.

    4. Who are all the investors behind crypto companies? Oh yes, the same guys who gave us the GFC in 2008. Look to the people, not the technology.

  26. Mark Bradley says:

    @Member #4 of the Mark Bradley Fan Club

    “Yes but you are forgetting that our very own Mark “craptocurrency” Bradley has the brain the size of a planet. Moreover, his motivation is to one day be so rich his brothers/kids who he grew up, who when he was young would regularly pummel-flat his head, will be so jealous they wished they’d never, ever, ever, ever, done it. Bradders IS going to show them (and us).”

    Very imaginative, but no. You are conflating me with Blowhard/getalife/later who probably is as described above. I have nothing but respect for the regular commenters of BigLychee except for one person that is our resident contrarian # 4.

  27. Mark Bradley says:

    “@Mark Bradley – I think you mean Bernie Madoff, not Bernie Sanders!”

    [facepalm] Indeed you are correct!

  28. Penny says:

    Seems to me that @getalife/later/blowhard are all one and the same person resorting to insult and accusing others of biases – he doubtless believes himself to be without any. That he also appears to be a tankie is no surprise at all.
    Now can we please move on from the whole cryptocurrency borefest?

  29. Mark Bradley says:

    @Chris Maden

    “At the moment, there are vanishingly few real-world things you can buy with cryptos.”

    You can load crypto into a Visa debit card and use them anywhere where Visa is accepted. However it’s true that there aren’t many places that *directly* take crypto. The few places aside from casinos and drug dealers that take crypto are: web hosting providers, domain name registrars, VPNs, and some video game online shops. Many of these things are tainted with some criminal element too since it would be said drug dealers, drug marketplace providers, ransomware gangs, etc who would be most interested in using crypto to register domain names and web hosting.

    Some online stores that sell computer games will also take crypto and even offer discounts as high as 10 to 20% if you do. There’s no denying that crypto is used more for speculation than as a method of payment however.

    There’s no denying that cryptos backed by nothing can crash down to nothing.

    “3. Energy is not free. A conventional payment transaction takes a few microwatts of power. A crypto payment takes milliwatts and often tens of milliwatts, so is a thousand times more energy intense. It’s basic physics. Happy to back that up with actuals – I’ve been doing payments systems for a very long time.”

    This is of course true when it comes to any crypto using proof of work and it applies particularly to bitcoin which has a high computational difficulty rate. You’ll have no argument from me on that.

  30. Joe Blow says:

    I have heard people call ‘crapto currency’ a Ponzi scheme. To me it sounds a whole lot more like a ‘pump and dump scheme’.

  31. Mark Bradley says:

    “Now can we please move on from the whole cryptocurrency borefest?”

    Apple Daily is shutting down. Those fucking cunts are getting their 100th birthday present.

  32. wolflikeme says:

    so this has turned into a reddit crypto insult fest. just what we come here for.

  33. Vic Hislop, shark hunter & Man of Mystery says:

    Mark, I agree with you. After all the fascist indignities we had to suffer over the past 2 years, I can only mutter one word: revenge. Let’s take the battle to China proper. Give them a cookie of their own dough.

  34. Joe Blow says:

    In the light of the HK Government’s crackdown on Apple Daily, the last major voice for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, I call on Pope Francis to excommunicate the CCP whore Carrie Lam and on the British Government to cancel her visa.

  35. Penny says:

    The column that I was unable to publish in Apple Daily:
    https://kevincarrico.substack.com/p/one-country-two-systems-is-great

  36. Chinese Netizen says:

    wolflikeme: “so this has turned into a reddit crypto insult fest. just what we come here for.”

    I for one am virtually 100% clueless on the whole “Crypto” finance world and found all the back and forth above quite interesting. Don’t usually read long winded posts but read every word this time!

    The ONE thing I was aware of that Chris Maden tried to shoot down was an individual’s ability to purchase goods with crypto. That’s been going on a while now with mainstream players, so it appears he’s off on that for some strange reason.

    @Jow Blow 8:33pm: TOTALLY agree. Force the c**t Lam to live out her miserable days in HK as a pariah endlessly in search of toilet paper.

  37. Mark Bradley says:

    “I for one am virtually 100% clueless on the whole “Crypto” finance world and found all the back and forth above quite interesting. Don’t usually read long winded posts but read every word this time!”

    And nobody was engaging in reddit style insults EXCEPT that blowhard/getalife/later guy. Everyone else was cordial, even the insufferable Reactor # 4 our resident contrarian!

    “@Jow Blow 8:33pm: TOTALLY agree. Force the c**t Lam to live out her miserable days in HK as a pariah endlessly in search of toilet paper.”

    haha sounds like purgatory. Would be perfect for that fucking shameless twat.

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