A number of readers have complained to us about the activities of the courier company SF Express and its irritating habit of cordoning off large areas of our streets to conduct its parcel sorting business.
One of its favourite areas of activity is near the bottom of Wyndham Street, where its trucks and workers happily put out barriers and block off half the street. This, of course, reduces the traffic flow from two lanes to one, adding to the traffic congestion in Central. Needless to say our ever alert traffic wardens and excellent police force are far too busy to ever tell this outfit to move on. It should be noted that SF is one of the mainland's two biggest courier companies, but hopefully this not a reason they are able to conduct their business unimpeded in the city centre.
Using the street is infinitely cheaper than buying or renting office space. The company also has an outlet in Wan Chai, but as our picture shows it is not averse to spreading its activities around our public spaces.
When we questioned the company about this illegal activity, it said that the prolonged use of locations such as Wyndham Street was "mainly due to the occasional increase in parcel quantity on the busiest working days". It cheerfully admitted in its letter to us that "we load our parcels between 8.30am and 9.00am as well as other regular intervals on every working day. This may coincide with the peak periods when the highest number of people pass by Wyndham Street, one of the main parcel loading areas in Central".
The company apologised for the inconvenience, but how is it, we wonder, it can take it for granted that it is OK to use the street in this way? Perhaps other courier companies should pile in as well, until the police recognise there is a job to be done here.
Fischer's theory and practice
When he was deputy head at the IMF, Stanley Fischer generally opposed intervening in the foreign exchange markets. But some years later as Governor of the Bank of Israel he was responsible for aggressive intervention to stop the shekel from appreciating. So he would have recognised the curveball lobbed to him after his keynote speech at the CLSA Investor Forum: "Should emerging market central banks be criticised for not allowing currencies to appreciate more?"
"You are talking to one who should be criticised," Fischer laughed. Explaining his thinking at the time, he said that while the theory of comparative advantage suggested that not being protectionist was generally a good thing for the world, he said it was unclear how this worked with short-term capital movements.
When the shekel appreciated 25 per cent in the six months to March 2008, "we said - well now - what is this theory about why shouldn't we intervene? And I just couldn't persuade myself that it would do the world a lot of good if we let the currency appreciate so that we also had a recession, just to be there along with the other guys having a recession".
He concluded that it wasn't "at all clear that intervention is bad from the viewpoint of the global economy". So the intervention started. "But I didn't walk around feeling that if I had a father confessor I should confess." Later he was to tell The Wall Street Journal: "It's rare in central banking that you're not engaged in an act of trying to balance various conflicting factors." So much for theory, then.
It will come as no surprise that Asia's tycoons continue to pay themselves well, though this year dividend payouts hit record levels, according to a study by FinanceAsia. Its annual rich list shows that they paid themselves record dividends of US$12.5 billion, up 15 per cent on last year. This, the magazine says, was driven by higher payouts and the strong performance of Asian stock markets in 2012. The list is headed by Li Ka-shing and his family with US$1.47 billion, up more than US$200 million on the previous year.
Other Hong Kong tycoons in terms of their dividend earnings ranking include New World's Cheng Yu-tung (4) with a 420 per cent increase over the previous year, the Sun Hung Kai Properties' Kwoks (5) up 13.6 per cent, Henderson Development's Lee family (7) up 138 per cent, and the Kadoories (13) up 21 per cent. Joseph Lau of Chinese Estates was the biggest mover in the ranking with a ten times increase in his dividend earnings to US$37 million.