Lai See

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 May, 2011, 12:00am


Budget payout delay could see the natives getting restless again

Remember the HK$6,000 handout we were all promised shortly after the budget?

Some people expressed doubts at the time over the logistics of attempting this. Since it was announced almost three months ago there has been a deafening silence from the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) that has had the misfortune of having this poisoned chalice thrust upon it. Not only do we not know when this distribution is going to happen, we don't even know how it is going to occur.

In response to Lai See's queries the FSTB intoned: 'The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau is working out the details of the proposal. When the details are finalised, we will present the proposal to the relevant panel of the Legislative Council for discussion in accordance with established procedures and then seek funding approval from the finance committee. Once funding approval is obtained, we will immediately take forward the proposal so that registration will start as soon as possible.'

You don't get the impression from this that the department is poised to leap into action.

Some have compared the distribution issue to the protracted exercise that accompanied the switch to smart ID cards, which took several years to achieve. But it's hard to imagine people being prepared to wait that long. It defeats the purpose of the exercise, which was to bribe people by getting cash to them quickly to stop protesting over John Tsang's ghastly budget. The U-turn had the desired effect and people stopped protesting. But some say the problem is so intractable that the government might have to rescind the idea and have a rethink. Perhaps go back to the original idea and put it in MPF accounts. At least that's a feasible solution compared with the present mess the government finds itself in. If there is no word from the government on its plans for the handout then people are going to start getting restless again. The last thing it wants to see is people protesting on July 1, since that gets it a black mark from Beijing.

Of pots and black kettles

China has made an intriguing intervention in the discussion surrounding the appointment of a new IMF leader to replace the troubled Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

It has demanded that the appointment should be based on 'democratic consultation'. The foreign ministry has urged that the process for appointing the new leader should display 'openness, transparency and merit'.

China is absolutely right. It is intolerable that in this day and age such decisions should be made by powerful people behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms. However, the one slight weakness in its position is that none of these processes are deployed in China. Surely if it believes that 'democratic consultation' is a good thing for the IMF then it's good for China? Maybe this is one of those NIMBY issues.

Waiting for a sign from AIA

There was a bon moment at AIA's annual general meeting yesterday. An elderly Chinese gentleman got up and began to speak: 'You have a tall shiny building in North Point,' he told the assembled executives headed by CEO Mark Tucker, who listened intently. The old man went on say that the building, which is the company's headquarters, boasted a huge fluorescent sign on top. This sign lit up at sunset and stayed on until sunrise. 'Could we not turn it off at 11pm to show that we love the earth,' he inquired. Quick as a flash, Tucker responds: 'Yes - we love the earth. We'll look into this and get back to you.' So we wait with interest to see if AIA does indeed love the earth and turns off its enormous sign. Indeed, other buildings might like to follow suit.

Great honour for our Victor

We see that our very own Victor Chu has been awarded the Global Economy Prize 2011 by the Kiel Institute, a centre for research in global economic affairs. Chu holds many titles, including chairman of Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment Group. The aim of the prize, according the institute's website, is to promote a creative voice in the 'frequently sterile public debate on the future of the global economy'. Chu is in good company. The other prize winners this year are Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, Lawrence Summers, the former director of the White House National Economic Council, and Daniel Kahneman, an economics Nobel Prize winner in 2002.

- Clarification: In an item on Wednesday headlined 'Ronnie Chan back on form', we regret that an error was introduced during the editing process that inaccurately referred to Ronnie Chan Chi-tung instead of Ronnie Chan Chi-chung.