Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2012, 5:14pm

Incinerator's location is a burning issue

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

We've been looking at a presentation by the Permanent Secretary for Development (Works) Wai Chi-sing, which was made in November 2010 at an infrastructure conference. This was of interest to us despite being some years old because it showed the government's initial thinking as to where it wanted to locate its integrated waste management centre (IWMC), in other words its controversial incinerator.

In Wai's presentation it is clearly marked on a slide and described as "Tuen Mun IWMC". However, three months later, the government evidently had a rethink and announced the incinerator would be located in Shek Kwu Chau - a scenic island south of Lantau. Leaving aside the question of whether an incinerator of this kind is the way to go, the location appears to have been decided on political grounds rather than on what makes sense.

For example, ash from the incinerator - and there is a lot of it - will need to be transported on a fleet of barges back to the ash pits at Tuen Mun. It is well known that Tuen Mun and its environs are the fiefdom of Heung Yee Kuk leader Lau Wong-fat, who in Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's days as chief executive, sat on the Executive Council. It is well known that Lau opposes the location of the incinerator in his backyard, and his thinking appears to have swayed the government.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Department now talk of the need to spread facilities such as incinerators more widely among the community rather have it concentrated in one particular area. The project was frozen by Legco to enable the incoming C. Y. Leung administration to review its environmental policies. It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

Fund managers turn positive

We are not sure if this is good news or bad. A Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) survey shows that fund managers are becoming more confident about the prospects for a global economic recovery, CNBC reports. BAML's index of sentiment showed its biggest gain in more than three years. This is largely based on tough talking from Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, who said the bank would do whatever was necessary to save the euro from a debt crisis that has seen borrowing costs in countries such as Spain jump to unsustainable levels.

A net 15 per cent of the 173 fund managers who took part in the survey in the first week of August believe that the global economy will get stronger in the coming 12 months. This is a monthly swing of 28 percentage points, the largest leap in confidence since the April-May period in 2009, when economies emerged from the global recession. Fund managers are also expecting a policy initiative from the ECB in the third quarter. About 48 per cent of the respondents see the EU sovereign debt crisis as the biggest risk to the global economy, down from 65 per cent a month earlier.

"August's surge in confidence seems to be more a triumph of policy projection and potential than positive economic data," said Gary Baker, head of EU Equities strategy at BAML Global Research. "The risk is now that inaction by policymakers would lead to a negative reaction in global markets." We will not be filling our boots just yet.

Singapore smokes

The Mapletree Anson Building on Anson Road, on the fringe of Singapore's Central Business District is a fine building, we're led to believe. Its website tells us: "It combines cutting-edge design and quality facilities to keep businesses engaged in the international marketplace."

However, for the businessman with an office in the building who wants to smoke, the facilities are somewhat rudimentary. Now that smoking is banned in office buildings in most major cities, office workers craving a smoke are normally to be seen hanging around outside the front of the building while getting their fix. Not so at the Mapletree Anson. Smokers are required to smoke outside the building but in a specially cordoned off "smoking area". In our humble opinion, this "smoking area" is about as much use as non-urinating section in a swimming pool.

Citi in China

The people at Citi are all fired up at the prospect of being able to issue sole-branded credit cards in China next week. Citi also got its joint venture investment bank up and running last week. Its people are particularly pleased because they feel they are ahead of HSBC in the race to establish a significant presence in China. HSBC has yet to set up an investment banking operation in China or issue sole-branded credit cards. It's one thing to set up all these operations in China and another to make money out of them.

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