Lai See

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 December, 2011, 12:00am

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Plan for super incinerator should be a burning issue

The government is steamrollering through its plan for a super incinerator on the island of Shek Kwu Chau despite widespread objections to the location and the technology it is to use. At an estimated HK$13 billion, it is going to be one of the world's most expensive waste disposal units.

The decision has not been formally taken, but dredging has already started at Shek Kwu Chau. So much for the government's respect for due process.

The other site the government said it was considering was Tsang Tsui near the landfill site. However, this site falls within the ever-so-charming Heung Yee Kuk's 'sphere of influence'. Kuk leader Lau Wong- fat sits on the Executive Council and, more importantly, is capable of delivering votes. As a result, much of the New Territories is virtually a no-go area for the administration. Witness, for example, its torpidity in dealing with illegal structures and the small house policy.

The technical grounds as to why the government should consider alternatives to the incinerator were well set out in a recent letter to the South China Morning Post. It says the technology is old and Hong Kong would be better served by using plasma arc incinerators, which are cheaper and more effective, producing less air pollution.

The government is under the illusion that its proposed super incinerator is both clean and beautiful and will become a tourist attraction. But when asked why this attraction wasn't being built in Central, the response from a government official was that it wouldn't get past the air quality objectives. Once again, the health of the people in Hong Kong is being put at risk by the narrow political ends of the government.

Much easier to ignore the NGOs and objections from Cheung Chau and South Lantau than deal with hordes of revolting Heung Yee Kuk.

Will Secretary of Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah be as vocal on this issue as he has been on electricity tariffs? Strangely, we predict a deafening silence on this.

A priceless assessment

We were puzzled by HSBC Greater China Economist Donna Kwok's comment on the Hong Kong Consumer Price Index yesterday. 'With China now shifting towards disinflation and global food and commodity prices off the boil, consumer prices in Hong Kong are finally trending down.' According to the government's announcement, prices rose 5.7 per cent last month. So that means prices are still going up. It maybe that she means the rate of inflation is trending down. But surely, for an economist, that's a different matter. Maybe the spirit of Christmas came early for Donna.

Wine cost leaves bitter taste

We've been studying the price of an interesting South African sauvignon blanc called Porcupine Ridge. In South Africa it retails for the equivalent of HK$38. Let's add a couple of dollars for transportation, since it travels via container, making it a round HK$40. Some months ago it appeared on the shelves of ParknShop for a modestly enhanced HK$89. After the enormity of this rip-off was pointed out to the supermarket, it graciously reduced the price to HK$148 for two. Reducing the duty on wine has fattened the profits of the retail and catering industry, with little benefit being passed on to consumers. As we well know, Hong Kong's domestic consumer market is an imperfect thing.

Deck the short-hauls

Remember the dancing Cebu Pacific flight attendants, who became an internet sensation last year? Well, they could face competition from a home-grown troupe from Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express. About 25 staff in airline uniforms sang their hearts out at the recent carol service at the Mission to Seafarers, earning a standing ovation. Asked how he persuaded the choir to sing, The Reverend Stephen Miller, senior chaplain to the mission, said: 'You will just have to put it down to charisma.'

A run on the bank

Credit Suisse wins the Christmas card competition hands down with an amusing interactive Cresta toboggan run. How much should we read into the symbolism? It's all downhill and dangerous with many hazards that need to be tackled with skill and speed, and there's always the danger of hurtling off the course altogether. (It can be seen at https://www.credit-suisse.com/seasonsgreetings/global/2011/toboggan/?en)

And happy holidays

This is the last edition of Lai See this year. So we hope you all have a happy holiday and offer our best wishes for 2012. We'd also like to thank you all for your letters and e-mails, all of which help make Lai See what it is. See you in two weeks.