Hutchison Whampoa

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Public input welcome, as long as it favours Airport Authority's plans

The Airport Authority issues its project profile today for building the third runway at Chek Lap Kok and triggers the start of a statutory process that gives the public a mere 14 days to send comments to the director of the Environmental Protection Department. These comments are then supposed to be taken into account when the department prepares an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study brief that sets out what the EIA needs to consider.

This is a key stage of the process, because the judge who presided over the judicial review of the Hong Kong-Zhuhau-Macau bridge said that this was the time to object to and comment on the project, rather than after the EIA report was produced.

Fourteen days is the standard period to lodge comments, but given the size and significance of this project, a longer period would have been appropriate, assuming that is, the government is really interested in the public's views. You get the sense that the current administration is only interested so long as the public agrees with its plans. The authority has made much of a survey it commissioned that found 73 per cent of respondents favoured building the third runway. A subsequent survey for the WWF and Greenpeace found more than 73 per cent believe it is important to consider the social and environmental costs when building the runway.

In its press statement yesterday, the authority appeared to be bending over backwards to appear accessible, transparent and so on.

'To facilitate stakeholders' exchange of views, AAHK will set up technical briefing groups and invite environmental experts, green NGOs, industry representatives and relevant government officials ... with a view to addressing the potential environmental impacts arising from HKIA's [Hong Kong International Airport's] expansion to a three-runway system.' There's even going to be an electronic newsletter to keep the public informed of the EIA process and studies. This is all very encouraging, but it would take a massive change in the authority's aloof culture for this to be a meaningful exercise.

Despite the authority's apparent conversion to openness and transparency, the one thing it won't be doing is conducting a social return on investment study. This is a study that examines the impact of the project on the community at large. Indeed, the Legislative Council's environmental panel asked the airport to conduct one, together with a carbon audit and a strategic assessment.

When we asked the authority if it intended to comply, we received the lofty reply that there was no generally accepted methodology for these studies and, in any case, it wasn't obliged by law to conduct one. That may be true, but given that the authority has pledged to make Hong Kong's airport the greenest in the world, you'd have expected a more enlightened response.

No place like home for ParknShop

We see that ParknShop completed its withdrawal from Shanghai with the closure of its two remaining stores. This is quite a retreat since, having moved into the city in 1994, it had over 20 outlets at one time.

Indeed, ParknShop was one of the first supermarket chains to move into the mainland. It appeared to have prospered by transplanting its Hong Kong model there, at least for a while, until other chains moved in and seemingly adapted rather better to the mainland market. Ironically, this includes Carrefour, which attempted to break into Hong Kong's market but was frozen out by Hong Kong's two main chains: Hutchison-owned ParknShop and Jardine Matheson's Wellcome.

The story goes that the duopoly suggested to wholesalers that if they wanted to continue supplying them, it would be unwise to supply to those that undercut them.

Unkind souls have suggested that ParknShop's failure in Shanghai stems from an inability to operate in an environment where it lacked the kind of advantages it is able to leverage off in Hong Kong.

'X' marks the euro sweet spot

With Greece once again poised to leave the euro zone, there has been a flurry of concern over the problem of holding Greek euros, that is, those notes printed in Greece. The serial numbers of the notes start with a 'Y'.

One of the possible exit scenarios for Greece is that Greek euros will be compulsorily converted to drachmas. They could then be expected to fall drastically in value. German euros are prefixed with an 'X', Spain's with a 'V,' Portugal's with an 'M' and Italy's with an 'S'. But some say the market is being flooded with 'X'-prefix euros, while the 'Y' notes are disappearing to minimise the chance of them being rejected outside Greece.