Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am

When it comes to fine wines, Henry Tang shows he can deliver

Some, but by no means all, of the journalists that drank the wine at the annual Hong Kong Journalists Association's ball recently were struck by its unusually high quality.

This was no ordinary vin ordinaire. The reason for this emerged during the course of the dinner when it was revealed that the wine had been donated by Henry Tang Ying-yen who, in addition to being Hong Kong's chief secretary is well known for his discernment when it comes to wine. He was asked for a donation to the event and came up trumps with 240 bottles, which to our untutored eye appeared to range in value from about HK$300 to HK$1,000 a bottle.

His donation included four cases each of 2002 Masseto, 1999 St Emilion Barde Haut, 1999 Jean Boillot Volnay Fremiets, 1999 Niellon Chassagne Montrachet Truffieres, and 1999 Marc Colin Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets. But then you wouldn't expect Henry to serve up anything but the best, at least when it comes to wine.

But should the HKJA be soliciting wine from Henry, particularly since his relationship with the press is, to say the least, adversarial? Mak Yin-ting, chairman of the HKJA, says the organisation uses the event to raise funds to fight for press freedom. The association gets donations from a wide variety of sources in Hong Kong, including property developers, politicians and the entertainment industry. 'But this does not mean we will compromise our coverage of their activities,' she told Lai See. We'll drink to that.

Ronnie Chan back on form

We understand that Ronnie Chan Chi-tung, chairman of the Hang Lung Group, was on form at a venture capitalist lunch he presided over yesterday. That is, he was exuding his usual wit and wisdom.

He asked the luncheon guests what value they brought to the companies they invested in, other than cash. One of the venture capitalists, Andrew Yan, managing partner of SAIF Partners, observed that most of the Chinese companies he invested in kept two or three sets of accounts before he invested in them. He said that once he had invested he sought to make sure their financial records were accurate and their corporate governance was up to scratch. Quick as a flash, Chan quipped: 'Wouldn't that diminish the value of the company?'

We assume Chan was joking. But oversight on matters of corporate governance and accounting are not one of Chan's strong suits, if the past is anything to go by. It will be recalled that he spent one of the less-distinguished periods of his career on the audit committee of the ill-fated Enron Corp, which spectacularly collapsed wiping out billions of dollars in employee pension benefits.

Good cop, bad cop

The website Business Insider has a list of what it calls the world's 'Biggest Police States'. Unsurprisingly there is often a correlation between the repression exercised by a regime and the size of its police force.

A police state is generally understood as one in which the state exercises restrictive controls over the social, economic and political life of a country - not unlike those found on the mainland. However, China does not feature in BI's list of 20 so-called police states. So what BI means by a police state is a territory which has a relatively high number of policemen per head of population. Top of the list was Egypt with 1,493 police officers per 100,000 people, followed by Belarus, Brunei, Russia, Cyprus, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Macedonia.

Hong Kong comes in at 18 with a force of about 27,000 with 393 police per 100,000 people, just behind Zimbabwe. This is presumably a colonial hangover when, under the British, the police were used as an internal security organisation. But things have changed haven't they?

We all have our ups and downs

With global markets subdued by looming uncertainties in Europe and, to a lesser extent China, the OECD has come up with just the thing to put our minds at ease. It has produced what it calls a 'happiness index' to measure well-being and perceptions of living conditions.

The launch of the Your Better Life Index is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the OECD. It covers 11 areas: housing, income, employment, social relationships, education, the environment, the administration of institutions, health, general satisfaction, security and the balance between work and family. OECD secretary general Angel Gurria said: 'This index encapsulates the OECD at 50, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding in a pioneering and innovative manner,' Agence France-Presse reported. He added: 'People around the world have wanted to go beyond GDP for some time. This index is designed for them. It has extraordinary potential to help us deliver better policies for better lives.'

We feel it should come with a warning that although happiness can go up, it can in certain circumstances (like the present) also fall.


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