Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 4:12am

Hong Kong yearbook in shock upgrade


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 some changes have crept into the latest edition of the Hong Kong 2012 yearbook. For those familiar with the process, this is no mean achievement. For years, those tasked with editing this magnum opus have been told: "We'd like to do things differently this year. We want it brighter, fresher, livelier and more appealing." So suitably encouraged, the editor receives the material from the various bureaus and departments, turns this dross into a lively appealing read and sends it back to them for approval. Imagine the disappointment when the editor sees his sparkling prose has been turned back into turgid bureaucratise.

This year's editor, Stuart Stoker, a former government lawyer, appears to have had sufficient gravitas to stand up to this and produces a volume that is distinctly superior to those of recent years. Not only is it better-written, he has also managed to reduce it to 434 pages, about 77 fewer than the previous years'.

Indeed, the aim has been to at least make it resemble a year that most people can recall, rather than a ramble compiled from senior civil servants' diaries. The streamlined calendar of events is instructive. Gone is the tedious, meaningless litany of ministerial visits of little consequence, although they do have a certain grotesque fascination. Our favourite is the entry for April 19, 2011. "The Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, leads a delegation to Beijing to exchange views with the National Nuclear Safety Administration of the Ministry of Environmental Protection." Oh to have been a fly on the wall for that exchange of views.

We see that the usual picture of the Apec meetings showing the leaders uncomfortably attired in the national dress of the host country has been omitted. Last year's frontispiece was a photograph of then vice-premier Li Keqiang delivering a speech on his visit to Hong Kong. This year's is a sizzling photograph of cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze winning her bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

But the latest yearbook has been unable to expunge all textual curiosities. The section on housing in last year's book says: "It [the government] makes every effort to keep the average waiting time for public rental housing to around three years for general applications." This surely should read "to below three years". This has been changed slightly this year to "the government aims … to keep the average waiting time for public rental housing at around three years". But let's not quibble.


Playing in the rain

Richard Pontzious appears to be finding life on the road a trifle exacting. The founder, artistic director and conductor of the Asian Youth Orchestra tells us of the rigours of the orchestra's summer tour. A two-hour bus ride on Sunday from Dongguan to the border crossing at Shenzhen Bay to queue with thousands of others, only to be greeted by a thunderstorm, lightning and torrential downpour that soaked their instruments. Then another queue to pass through Hong Kong immigration, only to exit to a second downpour. A one-hour bus ride to the Hong Kong airport was followed by a bumpy flight to Taiwan. Ten hours later, they checked into the hotel before performances on Monday and Tuesday night.

Every summer, about 100 musicians selected from around the region are together for six weeks, initially for three weeks of rehearsals in Hong Kong, then for a three-week international concert tour with well-known conductors and solo artists. This year's stars are celebrity cellist Steven Isserlis and conductor James Judd.


Fund managers' rule OK?

Uncertainty reigns in investment banking on the job front. But things look a lot chirpier on the buy side. Not only is the differential between the two sides narrowing, the eFinancialCareers website says, but the latest figures from Britain's Investment Management Association show headcount is back above pre-crisis levels. While the numbers in investment banking were being decimated, employment in asset management rose 4.4 per cent last year, an increase of 11 per cent over 2009.

However, one curious feature of the industry is reflected in a survey by Ignites Europe, cited in the FTfm recently, which found that 65 per cent of the employees in fund management said bullying was "prevalent" or "very prevalent" in the industry.


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