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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 4:01am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 February, 2013, 5:23am

Cohorts of pussyfooters tiptoe around extravagance curbs

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 see that Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has reiterated his call for a curb on official banquets and has called on all government agencies to tone down official receptions to end extravagance and to follow the fine Chinese tradition of "being diligent and thrifty".

But, old habits die hard as Xinhua reveals. Despite the new regulations on frugality, which were first issued last year, Xinhua reports that there are "cohorts of pussyfooters who rack their brains to keep their corrupt working practices and lifestyles while maintaining good repute". But the new catchphrase among party officials is "to eat quietly, to take gently and to play secretly". True, a number of hotels, according to Xinhua, have reported a decline in bookings for official banquets.

But we shouldn't read too much into this. One way round the new frugality drive has been to move luxury banquets out of hotels and into government canteens. Top hotel chefs cook at these canteens, bringing fancy high-end tableware with them.

 

Law of unintended consequence

Readers will know that in our quest to remove the urban blight of illegal parking we have suggested various ideas, including outsourcing the role of traffic wardens so they would have a vested interested in ticketing illegally parked vehicles. Another idea is clamping cars - HK$320 is not much of a deterrent to tycoons but disabling their cars might be.

We gather from a recent chat with a long-term Hong Kong resident that in the 1970s and '80s, illegally parked cars would be impounded by the police. But like so many rules and regulations this led to unintended consequences.

Some readers may recall Alberto Sanguinetti, a flamboyant barrister well known for being fearless in court but also for his parsimony. He owned a car but given his reluctance to pay for parking would park in places the police described as unauthorised.

Having had his car towed away on one occasion he was surprised to discover how cheap it was to retrieve it from the police compound. So much so, that prior to taking his annual holiday in the summer, rather than pay for somewhere to park his car, he would leave it in an unauthorised place and wait for the police to impound it. He would then go off on holiday in the knowledge that his car was safe in the police compound.

We do not recommend this.

 

Rinehart still on top

Despite the decline in commodity prices and stocks, which shaved A$1 billion (HK$8 billion) off her net worth, Gina Rinehart with A$17 billion is still ranked No 1 in Forbes' Australia's 50 Richest list. She's followed by Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of Glencore International, with A$6.7 billion; James Packer, controlling shareholder in Crown, on A$6 billion; Frank Lowy, co-founder of the Westfield Group, on A$5.3 billion; and Andrew Forrest, non-executive chairman of Fortescue Metals, with A$4.8 billion.

Packer saw the biggest jump in net worth in the rankings, rising by A$1.5 billion following the sale of the last of his media interests and the rise in value of gaming group Crown.

 

Lust in translation?

The Economist's man at Davos reports that the general mood was at its most upbeat since January 2007 when the financial system had more or less seized up. There was relief that most experts appeared to think that the financial crisis was over and this outweighed concerns that economic growth and job creation was to remain sub-par for some time to come.

Aside from the cerebral pontification at Davos, or as CNN anchor Richard Quest put it, the place where "the cold air of Switzerland and the hot air of the [World Economic Forum] meet", there were clearly lighter diversions. The Economist notes the euphemism of the week was "translator". When any of the army of beautiful, lightly clad young ladies flown in for the "Russian party" were asked what they did, they answered: "I'm translator".

 

Ireland - the far Far East

Investors in British bank HBOS' Far Eastern Fund would presumably not be surprised to know that much of it is invested in Hong Kong, China, South Korea and Taiwan.

But they might be more surprised, possibly alarmed, to learn that 2.55 per cent of the fund's assets are in Ireland, The Telegraph reports. Perhaps it's time for a realignment of the fund's medium-adventurous-risk level.

 

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

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This article is now closed to comments

RobinDeCaro
Besides high end tableware in the canteens,you may be well aware of the big white elephants in China.Over investment on fixed assets which are may be black holes.Different ways of extravagance,anyway.
 
 
 
 
 

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