Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 12:00am

Life of a surveyor is a lowly one, even if his guess is as good as anyone else's

Quizzed before Tuesday's blockbuster land auction, the city's surveyors foresaw a moderate cash-raising exercise for the government. In the end, the Kowloon Bay strip went for $1.82 billion rather than the $1.1 billion forecast by the most bullish member of the property valuation trade.

The stock market seems to have concluded that a collective madness took over property firms, resulting in a rapid sell-off of their shares. That, however, does not seem to be the view of Francis Yuen Tin-fan, a super smooth financier who noted somewhat sniffily: 'If a surveyor gets it right, he will turn into a developer.'

We get his general drift of 'horses for courses', a point he expanded on by claiming academics were generally no good at business. But perhaps the real point is that Mr Yuen, who chairs Pacific Century Insurance, yesterday came clean on the fact that the firm had formed a 60:40 joint venture with an unnamed partner and planned to bid [not him personally, mind you] up to $1.05 billion. It turns out his firm's upper limit proved to be at more or less the top of the range forecast by the shoe-gazing wage slaves from the surveying profession.

Perhaps a slide rule and valuation tables do have some value after all.

baby-boom economics

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has caused no end of trouble for Hong Kong's swollen ranks of kid-less and kid-light couples. As a married man with no children, Lai See is regularly reminded of his duty to procreate but has yet to sign up to the three-baby policy. For those not swayed by calls to patriotic duty and threats of ticking demographic time-bombs, the passage towards the patter of tiny feet could perhaps be eased with the appropriate incentives. Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen (a four-kid man) has the perfect opportunity to lay the financial framework for a 21st century baby boom in his upcoming budget.

Now Lai See is as keen on free love as the next man but we are not sure we can condone a 500 per cent tax on condoms, as suggested by David 'new Daddy' Webb. A better idea seems to be a pile of cold hard cash for doing the right thing - say $5,000 per month to subsidise first-born babies, just as they do in the German socialist paradise.

Women's working hours should be reduced (at least that way Lai See will get to see his wife before midnight) and, of course, a major expansion in paternity leave should be introduced, perhaps along Canadian lines, with a combined household kiddy leave of 12 months adopted.

Given the right incentives, we are sure Hong Kong people will quickly rediscover the joys of child-rearing, and perhaps even sex as well.

Young bucks reach out

Who wants to be a millionaire? The young and the thrifty, apparently.

A Citibank survey has found the average age of Hong Kong's 274,000 cash millionaires to be just 45, with most having achieved their lofty state by the tender age of 37.

Forty per cent, moreover, racked up their first million the old fashioned way - they saved it. A surprisingly low 20 per cent - for Hong Kong, anyway, credited property investments. Just 2 per cent lucked into their wealth with a bit of Mark Six magic, triple trio triumph or casino cunning.

Lai See is the requisite 37 years of age but is still waiting to see his first million dollars.

More evidence, as our wiser millionaire-turned-Monitor columnist colleague has observed, that journalism is 'a half-way stop on the road to the poorhouse'.

dwelling on it

Speaking of millionaires, Esprit Holdings vice-chairman Heinz Krogner-Kornalik, one of the company's few directors to have not cashed in on its share run-up over the past three years, says he may sell up to 20 per cent of his 10 million shares.

The reason? He wants to build his dream house in Spain.