Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 June, 2012, 12:00am

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Airport Authority's green credentials may never take off

Hong Kong's green groups are planning on sending a joint letter to the Airport Authority asking it to conduct a social return on investment study (SROI). The letter will note that at the Environmental Policy Forum organised by environmental groups ahead of the chief executive's election, Leung Chun-yin supported conducting social and environmental cost assessments for economic development and large infrastructure projects such as the third runway. It will also note that the Legco environmental affairs panel unanimously passed a motion on April 23 demanding an SROI, strategic impact assessment and carbon audit be conducted before the runway is built. The letter will invite the authority to respond, possibly, within two weeks. If it decides against the SROI, the green groups say they will boycott the focus groups that the authority wants to set up as part of its environmental impact assessment process. This would be a blow for the authority since in the press release that accompanied the publication of its project profile, it makes great play of involving green groups in the EIA process.

So far the authority has said nothing on the subject other than respond to a query from Lai See in which it said it would comply with the law. Since it is not legally required to conduct an SROI study, we took that as a no. The authority has backed itself into an awkward corner because while it is refusing to conduct an SROI, which is considered best practice by organisations such as the World Bank, a few weeks ago it pledged to make itself the 'greenest airport in the world'. Unless it treads carefully it will find itself undertaking the massive project without the support of the green organisations. This may not have mattered a few years ago, but the political climate has changed and the signs are that environmental issues will play a more important part in C.Y.'s thinking than they ever did under Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

A man who calls it Squits

The inaugural annual forum of the Fung Global Institute Asia-Global Dialogue was yesterday graced by Sir Howard Davies. He's a former deputy governor of the Bank of England and until last year director of the London School of Economics when he resigned after it emerged the university had accepted ?00,000 from a foundation run by Saif, son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

He has uttered some memorable bons mots in public. Two years ago he described Europe as a 'lost continent'. He tartly observed recently that 'there have been more lunches than agreements, to solve the European debt crisis'. There was more in this vein yesterday.

First he tackled semantics, telling us: 'The US has all of these phrases such as 'going forward', which people think means being better, and there's a 'like' in every sentence. Now Europe has its own set of words: 'Spanic', 'Squits', 'Spandamonia',' all obviously referring to Spain. Moving on, he asserted that there hadn't been a bank run in Europe for 150 years, observing that while it's not rational to start one, it's 'rational to join in when it's under way'.

Hedging their bets

Forbes has an intriguing piece on hedge funds and private equity companies. It notes that clients sign non-disclosure agreements to keep investment results secret, and compare their performance to themselves instead of the broader stock indexes. 'Nobody knows how much that performance is skewed upward by 'survivor bias' because hedge funds have a habit of shutting down after a bad year instead of continuing on to drag the averages down,' it says. Forbes also reports on another dirty secret of that industry. A report based on new data requested by the SEC shows that one in nine advisers to private funds have a 'significant adverse regulatory event' ranging from a regulatory violation to a felony conviction in the past 10 years.

What's sauce for the goose...

Bank of Italy governor Ignazio Visco is red faced after being caught out over pay. Bloomberg reports that Visco, who called on bank executives on Thursday to cut their pay, earns about twice as much as his predecessor, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. Visco's annual salary amounts to Euro757,714 (HK$7.23 million), according to the Bank of Italy's yearly report. Poor old Draghi is having to scrape buy on a meagre Euro371,000, not including the use of an ECB residence in Frankfurt, according to the ECB. 'The present level of labour costs is unlikely to be compatible with the prospective growth of the Italian banking system,' Visco thundered in a recent speech. 'The compensation of directors and top managers too must reflect the objective of containing costs.'