Six degrees

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am

Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the former head of the Monetary Authority, has been criticised by Legco for not preventing banks from selling the disastrous Lehman Brothers minibonds - what with Hong Kong being known for its particularly tight regulation of the financial industry. The caretaker of the Hong Kong dollar's peg to its United States equivalent, Yam (below) was notable for defending the local currency's position tenaciously: in order to maintain it during the Asian financial crisis, for example, he pushed interbank rates up to 280 per cent and bought more than HK$100 billion in stocks - an action that was criticised as excessively risky by, among others, his US counterpart Alan Greenspan ...

Of course, the chairman of the Federal Reserve has no place lecturing Hong Kong's top central banker; as people are always paid what they're worth, the high-earning Yam clearly must have been roughly seven times better at his job than Greenspan was at his. The latter got a chance to visit the fabled land of lavishly remunerated central bankers in 2006, when he was a speaker at the prestigious investors' forum hosted by financial services group CLSA in Hong Kong; other leading political luminaries to have addressed the conference over the years include Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and, er, Sarah Palin ...

A trailblazer she may have been, as the first female Republican vice-presidential nominee, but in her public utterances the former Alaska governor hasn't always been a friend of the sisterhood. Earlier this year, for example, she leapt to the defence of a man who had spent three days brutally insulting a woman who appeared in front of a congressional committee to support mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives. The poor woman was called a 'slut' and a 'prostitute' by this man: Rush Limbaugh ...

A staunch advocate of the war on drugs, the radio host's tough talk against substance users was undercut somewhat in 2003 when he was caught trying to illegally obtain painkillers, and admitted he was addicted to prescription opioids oxycodone and hydrocodone. He ran into pharmaceutical trouble again three years later, when he was detained entering the US with a drug that has a very different purpose: sildenafil citrate, aka Viagra ...

First trialled as treatment for high blood pressure and angina, the undersurprisingly mega-successful medication has perhaps more surprising associations with the world of politics. Not only has it been advertised by that paragon of virility, senator Bob Dole, but the company that makes it, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, also happens to be a former employer of our dear outgoing chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen ...

His time at Pfizer was the only period in his career that the man who is interesting mainly for his ties and fish - i.e. not very - has spent outside the civil service and politics. Tsang did not, alas, have anything to do with the invention of Viagra; he did, however, praise the stiffness and resilience given to the Hong Kong economy by a man who apparently 'acted in concert with the government ... to overcome the Asian financial turmoil' and has kept Hong Kong's banking system stable 'under the present financial tsunami': Joseph Yam.


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