with Howard Winn
HK's concrete solution to an embarrassment of riches
Two years ago, the financial secretary forecast a budget deficit of HK$40 billion and ended up with a surplus of HK$26 billion. Last year, John Tsang Chun-wah led us to believe that we could expect a budget deficit of HK$25 billion, only for it to blow out to HK$71 billion. Fortunately for him, his position does not appear to be based on his ability to make a reasonable budget forecast.
Earlier last decade, there was much hand-wringing in government circles over the recurrence of budget deficits, leading to the formation of a committee to investigate this problem. The committee of wise men concluded that yes, Hong Kong did indeed have a structural deficit problem. This wisdom was almost immediately undermined with the appearance of budget surpluses that financial secretaries have proved increasingly unable to forecast.
So should we therefore form a committee to study the problem of Hong Kong's budget surpluses? Or should we just concede that the government has a structural inability to present a budget that has some bearing on reality and that the process is simply out of control?
It has now become a cynical exercise in concealing what has become an increasing embarrassment of riches which the government attempts to convert, as much as possible, into concrete while doing relatively little to help the needy.
Bankers' awards dinner shock
Euroweek is red-faced after confusion over its annual awards dinner, which was to be held this week at the Watermark, an upmarket establishment at the Star Ferry, which is conveniently close to the IFC building, the natural environment of your average award-winning banquet. However, due to a double booking, the awards have had to be shifted a few kilometres up the road - to the Jumbo floating restaurant at Aberdeen.
Bankers are reportedly furious. 'It's a bit like being told you're having your wedding reception at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant and then having to downsize to a McDonald's,' harrumphed one industry observer. Quite. One doesn't mind roughing it, but one does have to draw a line.
Dragonair chief's free ride
Congratulations are due to James Tong Wai-pong (pictured), chief executive of Dragonair, who won two tickets to Indonesia courtesy of the country's newly listed flag carrier Garuda last week.
Tong's good fortune generated some merriment when his name was selected since it occurred at a dinner hosted by RBS to celebrate Garuda president and chief executive Emirsyah Satar being named person of the year by Orient Aviation magazine.
Tong joined Dragonair as chief executive in 2009, but had he still been working for Cathay Pacific Airways he could have used the trip to see how the Cathay inflight product compared with the competition. Sadly, though, the closest Dragonair flies to Indonesia is Kota Kinabalu (in Malaysia).
Mainland's problem tycoons
The 2010 Hurun report recently released some telling statistics.
In the past 12 years, 1,882 people made it to the Hurun list of China's richest, of which 24 are 'problem tycoons'. Of these 24 tycoons, 18 are in jail.
Among the 24, two are now out of jail, namely Yu Guoxiang (a former Shanghai Hilton owner who was implicated in the scandal of former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu) and Stephen Wong Wangsang, the founder of Hong Kong-listed Skyworth Digital. Another four problem tycoons are not in jail but are awaiting judgment, including former Xinhua Life chairman Guan Guoliang.
Forget Google, Panguso's here
You couldn't make this stuff up: the rocket scientists in the Communist Party have devised an internet search site, with Google redirecting users from the mainland to its Hong Kong search engine. The site, launched yesterday, is called www.panguso.com, and will be operated by Xinhua News Agency in partnership with China Mobile.
Presumably, any searches deemed to be insidious will be delayed while security officials are deployed to hop round to the offender's apartment to arrest them and send them away for a spot of re-education - or possibly even harvest their organs if the offence is serious enough.
Here's a tip: don't type in 'Tiananmen Square' or 'Falun Gong', 'Tibetan independence', 'Taiwan independence' unless you have an abnormally high threshold of pain.