Educators learn one of life's lessons ... the boss always calls shots

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am

'The problem arises when those who control resources use their power to achieve their desired outcome.'

Professor Paul Morris,

HK Institute of Education

IS THIS ANY DIFFERENT from saying that he who pays the piper calls the tune? Try as I might, I just cannot see why it should be thought a problem. It seems to me to be the natural state of things.

I'll grant you that these people at the Institute of Education (is it as much of a prison as its name suggests?) would have a legitimate complaint if Education and Manpower Secretary Arthur Li Kwok-cheung really did put pressure on them to sack staff members who published criticisms of education policy.

Slanging the boss' ideas in public is not the brightest thing to do if you value your career prospects with the boss but, okay, sacking people for it is going a bit too far in this case if, in fact, Arthur demanded that they be sacked and he denies this.

As I understand it, the fracas actually started with and centres on Arthur's proposal that the institute be merged with one of our (too) many universities. I gather that he thinks the institute can do just as good a job if made a department of City U or Chinese U and that this will save the public purse money.

The staff of the institute do not like this idea. How sad. How irrelevant too. They can cry on someone else's shoulder as far as I'm concerned. It's my money that pays their salaries and Arthur has the job of seeing to it that my money is well spent in education.

If he decides that a university merger is a good idea, and I'm disposed to think that it is, then I expect him to carry it into practice by using the power of the resources he controls to achieve his desired outcome.

And if you don't like this, fellas, then ship out and let's see how much luck you have in finding an employer who will both pay you and let you dictate your job to him.

It's a wonder to me that Arthur puts up with this sort of nonsense at all. Get it into your head, Professor Morris, that you're the piper and the man who pays you has said that the tune he wants to hear is called 'Merge'. If you don't want to play it, then don't take the fee.

'The hope is that the terminal will make Hong Kong not just another stopover on cruise itineraries but a hub and permanent base that can help boost the tourism industry.'

Au King-chi,

Tourism commissioner

FINE HUB IT WAS on Wednesday with the Queen Mary 2 having to dock in a container ship berth as nothing else in Hong Kong could accommodate it.

But before we use this as an argument for hurrying up construction of a new cruise terminal at the end of the old Kai Tak runway, let's just think a little about how much the visit of the QM2 actually brought us.

To start with, it was only scheduled for an 11-hour visit. This is actually an hour more than it will give Singapore tomorrow before heading off for another 11-hour stay in Kuala Lumpur. On its big round-the-world maiden voyage, this fabled ship is to devote a grand total of just 32 hours to Asian stopovers.

And what did it bring us while it was here? I suppose it took on some food and other supplies, all imported here from elsewhere so that the net benefit to the Hong Kong economy is zero aside from a few hours' wages for a few truck drivers. It also took on fresh water, I'm sure, which we subsidise heavily, thus a gift to the QM2.

And then there are the passengers who stepped off to do some shopping. That would be some more import pass-through for the goods they bought although this shopping undoubtedly did a little bit to help our shop landlords keep their rents high.

Put the emphasis on 'a little', however. Cruise operators don't like to see their passengers do their shopping off-ship when they can do it on board. This is one reason they keep their stops short. The QM2's owners were probably happy that they only had a container berth here. That helped keep the bodies on the boat.

And as to making Hong Kong a hub of cruise activities, let's keep a little geography in mind here, shall we? This is not warm and sunny Jamaica with millions of well-off Americans only a few hundred miles north, dreaming of a break from cold and shivery New York. This is not the nearest harbour to the fjords of Norway or Alaska.

What we have to entice cruise passengers here is very little. The climate is not a big draw, the distance to get here is too great and, as to cruise itineraries, well, Ha Long Bay is a pretty sight and then perhaps there is the port of Kaohsiung. Need I say more?

No, I needn't. That will do.