• Sun
  • Jul 13, 2014
  • Updated: 8:33am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2012, 2:33am

Why do emergency services pay tunnel tolls?

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.
 

Discovery Bay as we know is a unique enclave in Hong Kong. It's all privately built; even the police and fire stations. Private cars are banned and access is either by ferry, or by public transport via a 2.3-kilometre land tunnel. There is a small police presence and a fire station with three fire engines.

But one of the curiosities of the way the tunnel operates is that police and other emergency service vehicles are required to pay a toll when they pass through the tunnel. This is because it's a private tunnel. Indeed this is true for all private tunnels in Hong Kong.

You would have thought that given the nature of the work of the emergency services, they would be exempt from paying tolls. It's a public good. They don't have to pay up on the spot, but the tunnel company sends the government a monthly bill. In the case of the Discovery Bay Tunnel it's HK$50 a time.

It seems strange that the government didn't insist that emergency vehicles should be toll free. Fortunately the emergency services don't adopt an entrepreneurial approach to dealing with fires, for example.

I'll get back to you

Elections around the world have been changed with the introduction of e-mail and social media. Candidates are keen on sending out their message using these platforms as they feel they can get "closer" to people.

Michael Tien Puk-sun, deputy chairman of the New People's Party, which is headed by Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, is no exception. In an e-mail message, he notes there is a link to his election platform, together with a few well chosen words as to why he thinks voting for him will lead to a better Hong Kong. It ends, "As usual, we hope to stay in touch with you online and keep you abreast of our work," adding "feel free to e-mail me."

At least one voter we know of did, only to get no reply. Irritated, he wrote: "You invite recipients of your canvassing messages to e-mail you but then do not reply!" Maybe our reader took him too seriously.

Problem seats

These fancy seats that the airlines use in their posher classes may be very comfortable - but they seem to have an unfortunate tendency of swallowing up valuable items.

Some weeks ago we wrote of the heroism of a captain with Turkish Airlines who got down on all fours to poke about in the interior of a seat to retrieve a passenger's camera.

We now hear that Cathay Pacific is equally efficacious in this department. A reader tells of awakening after a comfortable night's sleep on a long-haul flight only to realise that his spectacles had disappeared into the innards of his seat. After being attended to by a helpful albeit ineffectual cabin attendant, his plight was observed by the second officer who our reader says "was very solicitous as he attempted to 'search' the seat".

Close behind came the captain, who immediately took charge. After at least 10 minutes of serious seat dismantling, the reader added that the captain produced the missing specs.

The Buffett perspective

Warren Buffett, the sage of Omaha, turned 82 recently and celebrated with his three children, giving them US$3 billion for their respective charitable foundations. He also had a message for the 415,000 population of Omaha, where his flagship, Berkshire Hathaway, is headquartered.

Asked if the headquarters would be relocated by his successor, Buffett said: "No, it won't be moved. Omaha isn't known for much else. In some places it's easy to lose perspective. But I think it's very easy to keep perspective in a place like Omaha."

Bonuses are not a problem

The head of Deutsche Bank's financial research in Europe, Matt Spick, says the popular view that bonus pools at investment banks are too high is misplaced. He argues in a research note that the largest institutions still have too many staff in less lucrative business lines, Financial News reports.

Spick said that bonus pools at some banks were 20-25 per cent off their peak levels in 2007, while he predicts that Credit Suisse bonuses will be almost 75 per cent lower this year than its pre-crisis level. Spick said banks should be reducing headcount, noting that in the 10 largest banks there are two back office staff for each front office employee. Hmm … all this smacks of rabbits arguing in favour of more lettuce.

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