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  • Oct 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:13am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2012, 2:22am

Regina Ip withdraws from leadership debate

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 regret to inform those who bought tickets for Intelligence Squared's upcoming debate on October 29 that they may feel a twinge of disappointment at a change in the speaker line-up. They are to be deprived of the wit and wisdom of Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who was due to speak in favour of the motion "China picks better leaders than the West".

She will be travelling on that day, but a distinguished replacement has been found in former solicitor general Daniel Fung Wah-kin. In 1990, Fung became the youngest member of the Hong Kong Bar to be appointed Queen's Counsel. He has recently been a visiting scholar at Harvard and at Yale law schools, and since 2000, Fung has had appointments as a director of the Salzburg Global Seminar and as Fulbright visiting scholar for Hong Kong to the United States. He's also been a member of various government commissions.

There was a slight hiccup in his distinguished career in 2010 when he was fined HK$300,000 as he found himself on the wrong end of a professional misconduct decision by the Barristers Disciplinary Tribunal Panel.

He will be speaking in favour of the motion alongside Daniel Bell, the Tsinghua University Confucian philosopher and scholar.

At your service

Something is evidently going right for some people somewhere. Demand for British butlers is soaring. The London agency, Bespoke Bureau, says it has placed 345 butlers so far this year, twice as many as in all of 2011.

Demand for places at the five-week training course at the Guild of British Butlers increases by about 20 per cent a year, according to The Economist. It's so strong that owner Anthony Seddon-Holand says he is considering running courses in New York, and sees Latin America as a "monstrous market".

Demand these days is not from old-money aristocrats, but from the new super-rich in mainland China, Russia, and the Middle East. Sara Vestin Rahmani, a director at Bespoke Bureau, told The Economist that 80 per cent of placements were overseas, and half the remaining 20 per cent went to foreign employers in Britain.

The appeal appears to be a mix of British tradition, hierarchy and experience. A top butler can earn as much as £150,000 (HK$1.9 million) plus bonus, on top of food and accommodation.

The more indispensable you are to an employer the more you can ask. W. Somerset Maugham once observed: "American women expect to find in their husbands a level of perfection that English women only hope to find in their butlers."

Time off in lieu of lay-offs

There's ominous news from accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers. The firm has invited its 10,000 staff in Hong Kong and the mainland to take unpaid leave for eight days during the next six months when the IPO market is expected to remain weak. The firm says it is an attempt to avoid having to lay off staff.

PWC has also introduced the so-called voluntary career break, which allows its staff to take leave of up to six months. Staff taking leave of this kind will receive 20 per cent of their salaries. How many other firms, we wonder, will be pushed into announcing similar moves?

Going nowhere

We feel obliged in view of our coverage of the subject, to report that Monday was Regional Traffic Day on Hong Kong Island. This involved a total of 298 police officers from Traffic Hong Kong Island and the district traffic teams of Eastern, Wan Chai, Central and Western, who were deployed "to enforce traffic regulations at traffic black sites on Hong Kong Island", according to a government statement.

This resulted in 763 fixed penalty tickets of which, surprisingly, 545 were for illegal parking.

It would have been interesting to see the breakdown of who was actually ticketed. Usually, it is commercial vehicles that bear the brunt of these exercises rather than drivers lolling in their tai tai mobiles. Having struck terror into those habitual illegal parkers for a day, we were disappointed to see that things were rapidly back to normal yesterday. Now there's a surprise.

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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