Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 November, 2008, 12:00am

Citi shines beneficent beacon on HK's underprivileged

We're going to be charitable to banks for a change. Well, Citi at least.

The bank's employees will be able to take their minds off concerns about bonuses and lay-offs today and give something back to the community in a global event to show concern for the environment and the underprivileged.

Global Community Day will see 40,000 of the bank's staff in more than 100 countries volunteering to take part in charity events.

Locally, more than 1,000, or about a third of the staff, will be involved in 21 projects led by Asia-Pacific chief executive Ajay Banga, who will join an arts and crafts class with underprivileged children, while new Hong Kong country head Zhang Shengman will be helping clear the grounds at Island House, Tai Po.

There are also games, nature rambles and a farm camp. But the one event that caught our eye was financial education for the elderly.

We hope the bank doesn't think we're being uncharitable to suggest that they should stay away from the subject of minibonds.

Unwilling to lose weight

Our piece last week about surreptitious downsizing of goods from takeaway food outlets, vending machines and supermarkets with no accompanying reduction in price, definitely struck a chord.

Several readers sent in their own examples, citing packs of butter, bacon and cold meats, packets of snacks, tins of powdered milk and jars of spaghetti sauce.

Mr Juicy was singled out for downsizing its 2.4 litre bottles of orange juice to 2 litres although, as the reader pointed out, it's not all negative as the new bottle is not so heavy to carry home.

The most long-term example involves Cafe de Coral. 'The standard portion of rice in a set lunch many years ago was so big and I could never finish it,' one observer wrote. 'But these days the portion has shrunk to about 60 per cent.'

Monkey business

If you have difficulty understanding the current world financial meltdown, this might help explain how it happened.

Once upon a time in a village, a man appeared and announced that he would buy monkeys for $10. The villagers seeing there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10, but, as the supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their efforts.

The man further announced that he would now buy at $20. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer rate increased to $25 and the supply of monkeys became so little that it was an effort to even see a monkey, let alone catch it!

The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50. However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would now act as buyer on his behalf.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers: Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when he returns from the city, you can sell them back to him for $50. The villagers squeezed together their savings and bought all the monkeys.

They never saw the man nor his assistant again, only monkeys everywhere.

Shock, horror, bombshell

The Foreign Correspondents Club has been making news for all the wrong reasons lately.

First it was toys being thrown out of the pram by the organisers of the annual charity ball, then came the peculiar court case over Baroness Baillieu's expulsion.

But members are likely to be more concerned about the club having to raise prices in its renowned upstairs dining room. FCC president Ernst Herb laments the fact that it is happening on his watch but says the Central watering hole has been absorbing price rises for long enough.

Will this financial crisis ever end?