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  • Jul 30, 2014
  • Updated: 9:40am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:14am

Up the creek in Sha Tin without a paddle

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 bring you an update on the saga of the Hong Kong Sports Institute's spanking new multimillion-dollar boathouse near Sha Tin. Readers may recall that several months ago we reported that the building had been designed with a sloping floor to enable water, from wet boats, to drain out of the building.

That was the plan until its effect was negated by the Buildings Department which, in its wisdom, decided to enforce a rule requiring it to have a 150-millimetre step between the pavement and the building. The rule was really designed for office buildings and office lobbies to prevent water from getting into the buildings and to stop property owners from making claims against the government when the floors of their buildings got wet.

However, wet floors are hardly a problem for boathouses. But to get an occupation permit, the step had to be built. This splendid edifice has been completed for some months now. But there is just one small snag. There is no way of getting the boats into the river. People are carrying the smaller boats about 100 yards along the cycle path to the Sha Tin Rowing Centre which has a ramp enabling the boats to be lowered into the water. That is providing they don't trip over the recently erected step or take out any cyclists en route.

We understand that a ramp is expected to be installed within six months in the nearby nullah which feeds in the shimmering Shing Mun River. We are told that one of the reasons why this final link has taken so long to get in place is that while it only required permission from a few government departments to build the boathouse, erecting the ramp required the say-so of some 11 departments.

So, the strategy adopted appears to have been to build the boathouse first and use this as leverage to force the government departments into line over the ramp. Refusal to grant permission could result in accusations of wasting millions of dollars of public money.

Teed off

We hear of a new illegal structure scandal. This one involves the Hong Kong Golf Club's Deep Water Bay Course on the south side of Hong Kong Island.

For many years there was a small hut where players teed off known as the starter's hut. In it was a man who checked green fees payment, and ensured players were starting at the correct time, and so on. We gather this hut has been declared an unauthorised structure by the Buildings Department and therefore had to be demolished, much to the irritation of the club.

The club has also fallen foul of the government over the matter of its children's playground. It transpires the playground is located on land that might be used by the government to widen Island Road at some time in the next five years. It is illegal to put a children's playground on land that may be used for road widening. The club has therefore had to remove it. The government is within its rights, but it all seems a bit petty.
 

Mayo the enforcer

Mike Mayo, CLSA's US banking research head, has responded to the concern we expressed yesterday about the professional void that has been created for him with the anticipated changes in Citigroup, resulting from the recent departure of CEO Vikram Pandit. Mayo spent much of his time pummelling Citigroup for its poor corporate governance. However, he has told us not to worry about him since "There are plenty of underperforming CEOs."
 

No room for Pussy Galore

We've been thinking about the recent unsuccessful attack on the Federal Reserve building in New York. The plan by the suspected terrorist was to blow up the bank with a 450 kilogram car bomb and to disrupt the US financial system since the New York Fed carries out most of the Fed's open market transactions.

The building also houses something like a quarter of the world's gold supply. Had this been damaged, it would have resulted in global instability.

All of this might ring a bell with James Bond fans. In the novel Goldfinger and the subsequent film, Auric Goldfinger attempts to raid Fort Knox, where a considerable amount of gold is stored, and destabilise the world's financial system. Can it be that al-Qaeda is drawing inspiration from such literature, albeit without the Pussy Galore element?

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

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