Harbour watchdog to get more teeth for mammoth task
We hear that the Harbourfront Commission, the body that is charged with overseeing development around the harbour, is to be upgraded in the not-too-distant future. The terms of reference for the commission, as they stand at the moment, are firstly to "play an advocacy, oversight and advisory role in the envisioning, planning, urban design, marketing and branding, development, management and operation of the harbourfront areas and facilities on a continuous and ongoing basis". Secondly, it is to "exercise overall co-ordination and monitoring … to ensure effective integration of these major aspects". Thirdly, it will to "foster and encourage the development, management and maintenance of the harbourfront through a wide range of contractual entrustment/partnership arrangements with the private sector (including the community, social enterprises and non-governmental organisations)".
Notice that its role currently is advisory. However, we understand that work is underway to introduce legislation to turn it into an authority with executive powers over what takes place around the 73 kilometres of harbourfront. This means that it will have overarching responsibility over the myriad other government departments that currently have an input into developments around the harbour, and will have the executive power to make decisions and advance the various projects more rapidly.
Interestingly, it will even have licensing powers which will give it control over food and beverage outlets.
The aim is to provide a world-class harbourfront that will turn back years of almost criminal neglect by various governments of this huge potential resource. It envisages turning large sections of the prime area into places where people can walk along the waterfront, eat, drink and be entertained and generally enjoy themselves. Not exactly a revolutionary concept, but it's taken Hong Kong a long time to approach this stage.
Philippines ain't Syria
We couldn't help noticing that activist groups in Syria say that 5,000 people were killed in Syria last month - the highest number of deaths in a month so far in the 17-month-old conflict. The United Nation's Children's Fund said there were also 1,600 deaths in the country last week, the highest weekly death toll so far.
Understandably the Hong Kong government gives Syria a black travel alert warning, which means avoid all travel to the country. Meanwhile, it maintains its farcical practice of putting the Philippines in the same category.
The Canadians have four categories of warnings starting with: exercise normal security precautions; exercise a high degree of caution - advice it gives to those travelling to the Philippines; avoid all unnecessary travel; and avoid all travel - which applies to Syria.
Poland the new Singapore?
With banks feeling the draught from the dwindling business of IPOs and market activity generally, some are pulling their people out of "cool" Singapore as the government likes to think of itself, to Poland, which is even cooler, at least from a temperature perspective. Credit Suisse, according to the Financial Times, has moved some of its people out of Singapore to Poland. Morgan Stanley last month reportedly moved 80 back office jobs to Hungary and India as a cost-saving move. Is Singapore approaching a downturn?
Beer and gas
Hong Kong-listed Beijing enterprises are a mixed bag of businesses that include the distribution and sale of piped natural gas and the production, distribution and sale of beer. Those wondering about the synergies between piped gas and beer can take heart from the words of Li Fucheng, chairman of the firm's brewery unit Beijing Yanjing Brewery, who explained: "There is no contradiction in running a gas and beer business together. Gas is for cooking, it is about eating, while beer is for drinking."
There was further elucidation from Zhang Honghai, vice-chairman and chief executive: "Our fire and water can exist together, they compliment each other. In winter when beer sales are weaker, the demand for gas is strong. In summer the gas business is less robust but beer sales are very strong.
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