Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2012, 12:00am


Kids wheezing Down Under - what about those in HK?

There is less than cheery news from Australia on the subject of air pollution and child health.

A national study of 2,860 primary school children found nitrogen dioxide (NO{-2}), found in motor vehicle exhaust, was present in the lungs of two-thirds of the children from the 55 schools tested, according to Melbourne's The Age newspaper. Researchers found that vehicle pollution is giving otherwise healthy children asthma-like symptoms, potentially affecting their lung growth and function.

In cases where NO{-2} was found, children experienced ''asthma-like'' symptoms, including wheezing. Their lung volume was reduced and their airways inflamed.

The study found that NO{-2} exposure was not producing typical asthma but a non-specific lung effect that did not improve with asthma medication.

The National Environment Protection Council commissioned the Australian Child Health and Air Pollution Study and noted that air pollution has a greater impact on children than adults.

Interestingly, that kind of report could not be produced in Hong Kong under the present structure of the Environmental Protection Department. So far as air pollution is concerned it just measures emissions and has no remit to concern itself with public health.

That is the concern of the Department of Health, which likewise does not concern itself with emissions. This is all part of the emasculation of the EPD that has occurred over the past decade. Critics argue that the EPD should have a clear public health remit.

It would be an interesting test of the government's complacency over air pollution to conduct a similar survey on the health of children in Hong Kong.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Government complacency over air quality and its effect on the population is matched by absurdity elsewhere.

We have seen extracts of a meeting that reported on the progress of street cleaning along Wan Po Road, which runs past Lohas Park to the landfill. This road has the distinction of being washed six times a day - eight times a day at Lohas Park. This is presumably because the residents don't like refuse trucks running along the road. This is the problem with living in a residential development built in the middle of an industrial estate. But there is more.

Taxpayers will be delighted to hear that the trees along the road are washed regularly. This occurs under the watchful eye of none other than officers from the Environmental Protection Department.

All eyes on Hibor review

We mentioned some weeks after the Libor scandal broke that perhaps we should be concerned about the Hong Kong interbank offered rate (Hibor), which is set in much the same way as the troubled Libor. Hibor is set by a panel of 20 banks in Hong Kong. The benchmark has been operating for 20 years and the panel's operation is reviewed by the market practice committee of the Treasury Markets Association every two years. But we see the Hong Kong Association of Banks is to review the benchmark. People will be watching this with some interest as most mortgages are tied to Hibor.

Don't bank on job security

A gloomy piece in the online Financial News says that the flood of investment bankers into Hong Kong after the global financial crisis may soon end in tears. While it once looked like a safe haven compared with London and New York, that is no longer the case, with investment banking revenues down by a quarter year-on-year. Equity capital market revenues are down 40 per cent for Asia ex-Japan, compared with 2011. Not only is there less activity but fees are slumping. The report says investment banks have priced initial public offerings cheaply to build market share and win sales business. Mainland banks have also been muscling in, increasing competition and squeezing fees. IPO clients are getting more demanding, and now that more banks are joining in, the pie has to be shared among more players. The paper concludes: 'So far, IB layoffs in Asia have been just a trickle. Without an unexpected pick-up in activity or an overhaul of the business model, though, the job losses could turn into a flood.'

Citi on a winning streak

They are cock a hoop at Citi, where its latest deal advising CNOOC on its US$15 billion acquisition of Canadian oil producer Nexen makes it the leading firm in cross border M&A for the year so far. It was in 23rd position for the same period last year. It has so far worked on deals worth US$27 billion, which puts it some way ahead of its rivals Credit Suisse, with US$11.4 billion, JP Morgan US$3.4 billion and Goldman Sachs at US$2.6 billion.