Bearded trade 'guru' talks banana economics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 1995, 12:00am

EVERY senior civil servant goes bananas one day or another, and for Tony Miller that day was yesterday.

Our bearded Director-General of Trade gave a broad-ranging speech on bananas to the British Chamber of Commerce, which is a bit odd because he was invited to speak about the World Trade Organisation, the successor body to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

We now know bananas grow on what is, strictly speaking, a herb rather than a tree.

Tony had at least three separate banana anecdotes, each of which had a sneaky message about international trade wrapped inside it.

When BritCham's Christopher Hammerbeck gave him a souvenir whisky glass after his speech was over, Tony whipped a banana out of his pocket and gave it to a nonplussed Christopher in return.

One tale had a certain relevance towards debates on the Chinese economy.

Tony was at a Harvard Business School case study about the nationalisation of the Nicaraguan banana industry, where the assembled brains decided the government could have done it much better. Then they had the first guest speaker, who turned out to be the Nicaraguan minister who had done the nationalisation.

The Nicaraguan flattened their theoretical criticisms with the statement: 'Sometimes, you know, the things they are not so seemple.

'The owner of the beeeggest banana plantation; she was my mother-in-law.' Quick time ANYONE who wants to give a belated kung hei fat choi to tycoon Ch'ng Poh shouldn't try to get in touch with him in prison - even though he received a five-year sentence just last July after being charged with conspiring to defraud his firm IHD Holdings of $127.6 million.

They should try ringing IHD instead.

The Malaysian architect was released on bail in January after an affidavit was filed by corrupt government lawyer Warwick Reid.

There was no condition on Ch'ng Poh's bail that prevented him returning to IHD premises. So he has.

Boss rules, OK? Tenants paying $140,000 a month for a flat in Hong Kong Parkview might be expecting certain things for their money - like being able to lie in in peace on a weekend morning.

Apparently not. Tenants in Tower 15 have been woken weekend after weekend with loud early morning noise, as if someone is smashing a hole in the floor.

In fact, someone is smashing a hole in the floor.

Among the grand plans underway for two flats on the seventh and eighth floors is a staircase between the two, as well as an Olympic-sized spa bath which had to be winched in to place using a crane on the roof.

This is pretty epic stuff. Like most tall buildings, the Parkview has concrete floors which help hold the building up.

Yet Parkview rules state clearly that 'no renovation will be allowed on Saturday and Sunday and Public holidays'.

When we spoke yesterday to Parkview building management, they said that the management had discretion to allow tenants to work at weekends if necessary.

There was no connection between the relaxed rules and the fact that these flats will shortly become the home of one of their bosses, Richard Hwang Yiu-hwa, one of the four brothers of the property-developing Hwang clan that built and still largely owns Hong Kong Parkview.

Nice frock, sir 'What a wonderful world' says the New World Harbour View's advert in Hongkong Bank's Premier magazine.

It certainly is. The ad prominently features a pretty and apparently female member of hotel staff, proudly wearing a name badge identifying her as 'Kenneth'.

No flying fish Derrick Fung of Che San and Co discovered that Soriano Airlines in the Philippines has a direct way of telling its passengers about security precautions: Interesting sense of priorities, putting dried fish above explosives. Obviously the chief executive of Soriano has had a nasty experience sitting next to a load of ham yu stinkers.

She's grounded Some Hong Kong property people went all the way to Singapore to a conference on China property organised by Asia Business Forum.

Star attraction was Xie Jiajin, Deputy Minister of Construction, and the brochures made much play of being able to hear her thoughts at first hand.

Yesterday she failed to turn up and someone else had to give her speech.

The paperwork turned up so late she couldn't get on the plane.

While conference attendees may have been disappointed, we guess Madam Xie would have been even more so.

That's because despite having risen to a position of some considerable power and influence, we hear it would have been her first trip outside of China.