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China Construction Bank

Lai See

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 June, 2011, 12:00am

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The ups and downs of living with illegal structures in the NT

So villagers in the New Territories think they should be compensated for taking down the illegal structures on their houses? They also think they should be allowed to beat a three-storey restriction and build six-storey houses.

You might think these demands would be dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic fringe. But the villagers have the support of the Heung Yee Kuk which is arguing villagers should be allowed to pay to keep their illegal structures. The Kuk is threatening 'drastic action' if agreement isn't reached with the government on the issue.

At a meeting on Tuesday between the Kuk and 500 villagers, there were dark threats against the Ombudsman whose recent report criticised the government's lax attitude towards illegal structures. Chinese-language newspapers reported that villagers at the meeting said that perhaps 'he should go west', meaning he should die. Despite these thuggish threats we doubt the government will follow the Ombudsman's recommendations.

The Kuk is a staunch government supporter and for its part, the government has for years turned a blind eye to the illegal structures in the New Territories. It has also put off doing anything about the small house policy which grants the sons of indigenous families the right to build a 2,100 square foot house - in effect handing them a huge capital windfall that is not available to other sections of the community.

But as the protests against the budget demonstrated - if people are prepared to object strongly enough then the government will cave in. So the nonsense in the New Territories is likely to continue.

Henderson sales go flat

Our heart goes out to Lee Shau-kee, the tycoon of Henderson Land Development, following reports that another three buyers have walked away from deals to buy flats at Henderson's controversial luxury development, 39 Conduit Road. This means that of the 30 flats that were apparently sold, 23 of the deals have collapsed

Police officers from the commercial crime bureau raided Henderson's offices earlier this year after it was discovered that four individuals had bought flats in the luxury development and then cancelled the transactions - arousing suspicion that the purchases were designed to manipulate the market. One of the cancellations was for a duplex that sold for HK$88,000 per square foot which would have been a record if completed.

Reporters quizzed Lee yesterday about the latest failure. 'I didn't know them, I never saw them and now I can't find them ,' he lamented. Police enquiries are continuing.

New thinking on growth

Karl Marx coined the term 'creative destruction' in relation to the contradictions he found to be inherent in capitalism. The expression later became identified with Joseph Schumpeter who turned it into a theory of economic innovation and progress.

Now along comes a new thinker from China - Guo Shuqing, chairman of China Construction Bank. He has turned the phrase on its head and has been talking about 'destructive construction', as a way of thinking about China's economic growth, Xinhua reports.

Guo says that a large proportion of China's gross domestic product arises from destroying existing buildings and moving out residents to pave the way for new construction. He has also noticed that despite all the building the actual average wealth of the people has not increased that much.

Lai See feels he may be basking in the wisdom of hindsight since his bank has financed a considerable chunk of that destructive construction.

Socialism's millionaires

It's a little more than 30 years since the late Deng Xiaoping started the open door policy. Now China boasts a million millionaires. Not exactly what we thought would emerge from 'socialism with Chinese characteristics', but nonetheless remarkable.

Economic growth, savings, and a strengthening of the yuan helped increase the mainland's millionaires by 262,000 to 1.1 million last year according to a survey by the Boston Consulting Group, a jump of 31 per cent.

China now ranks third in the number of millionaires behind the 5.22 million in the United States and Japan's 1.53 million, according to the BCG Global Wealth Survey, Bloomberg reports.

Singapore has the highest concentration of millionaires at 15.5 per cent of the population, followed by Switzerland with 9.9 per cent, Qatar with 8.9 per cent and Hong Kong with 8.7 per cent. Hong Kong has the 10th-highest number of millionaire households in the world with a total of 200,000.

This presumably, is why we are such a happy, contented community.