• Mon
  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 5:23am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 2:19am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 12:12pm

Financial secretary says Hong Kong is like Dr Who's Tardis


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.

Jack So Chak-kwong was at his cheekiest at the 30th Trade Development Council dinner in London this week. The TDC chairman was the warm-up act for John Tsang Chun-wah, the financial secretary.

So was celebrating the fact that he had been asked to stay on as TDC chairman after his six-year term. "Maybe it's because I did so little over the six years," he joked.

By all accounts Tsang's speech was the best at this event for some years. He managed to tie Hong Kong's growth to Dr Who's 50th anniversary - the first toy Daleks were made in Hong Kong. He even ribbed those naysayers who forecast Hong Kong's demise following the handover in 1997. "Nobody could have accurately predicted our destiny - not even Fortune magazine," he said referring to a piece published by the magazine in June 1995 entitled "The death of Hong Kong".

He went on to liken Hong Kong to a Tardis - small on the outside, but once inside its size and potential were limited only by imagination. "Even after half a century of non-stop action, you never quite know what will happen next, other than it's bound to be exciting."

Thankfully, So didn't single out our financial secretary for being boring as he did with ex-chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2011 when he jokingly said, "He doesn't put in fake expenses, he doesn't hold wild parties in his villa and he has very little interest in hotel housekeeping". Look where that led. The financial secretary's reputation remains safe for now.


Not at the head of the queue

Much as we may like our taxis, they are not rated highly by the rest of the world. Hong Kong's taxis were ranked 15th in a global survey conducted by the website Hotels.com London taxis were ranked the best in the world for the sixth consecutive year, followed by New York, Tokyo and Berlin. Fifth place was shared by Amsterdam, Madrid and Mexico City. In joint eighth place were Bangkok, Singapore, Bogotá, Las Vegas, Vancouver and Mumbai. Shanghai shared the 18th spot with Taipei.

The taxis were assessed in terms of safety, value, knowledge of the area, availability, driving quality, cleanliness and friendliness.

Globally, the survey found that people tend to text or e-mail while in cabs (19 per cent), while sleeping was the second most popular activity (15 per cent), followed by eating (10 per cent) and kissing (9 per cent).


CICC tops research rankings

China International Capital Corp has for the second year running come out on top in Institutional Investor 's All-China Research Team rankings. Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) was again in second place, while Citi repeated its third-place performance. Credit Suisse slipped one position to fourth while Goldman Sachs, which was in 10th position last year, jumped into fifth place.

The magazine reported that client interest in China remained "robust". BAML economist Ting Lu told the magazine that China's biggest problems were not the ones that normally received the most attention from its policymakers - such as limiting public debt and non-performing loans, shadow banking, manufacturing overcapacity and property bubbles.

"China needs to address challenges such as crony capitalism, widening wealth inequality, the shrinking young labour force, environmental degradation, and relationships with other global powers."


Trader's lament

We came across a sad story involving a 38-year-old trader with commodities giant Glencore, who said in court that "alcohol consumption is an integral part of entertaining and building relationships with people". He went on to argue, according to the website efinancialcareers, that "often people were drinking more than I was. Other people were drunk at their desks, trading drunk".

All this was part of his case against Glencore, which dismissed him after a night entertaining colleagues in Singapore. He said he had only had 10 bottles of beer, but this resulted in him missing meetings at breakfast, lunch and in the afternoon, and a number of phone calls. He also said Glencore was a results-driven business where drinking was tolerated as long as traders made money.

Alas it was all to no avail and the judge dismissed his claim for wrongful dismissal. There's a moral there somewhere.


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

John Adams
A more apt comparison would be to liken John Tsang to Dr Who.
He presses the go button on his Tardis, emerges wild-haired and whiskered in the middle of some or other financial crisis in a time zone of which he has absolutely no idea, fights off a few daleks with whatever weapons he happens to have at hand ( take more money /give more money, raise tax /lower tax, what the heck ? "They must be exterminated" ), carelessly throws a dart at the latest budget estimate chart ( "that'll do, pigs, that'll do") and vanishes back inside his Tardis.
Fanciful, perhaps yes.
But can you come up with a more logical explanation for J.Tsang's irrational decisions as FS?
I can't.
John 'middle class' Tsang is living in such a blind bubble of his own that he thinks HK is doing well after 1997. He just sees money and thinks if it's there, everything must be alright, much like Donald. Drink some red wine, no worries while the ship is slowly sinking around him (at least a lot of regular HK people are sinking, and once that happens, the ship will go down as well). Totally unbelievable how out of touch this clown is.
And then the other clown saying "Maybe it's because I did so little over the six years", this in a nutshell outlines the government strategy from Donald onwards...sad.
I doubt very much that the FS wrote his own speech or has ever even seen an episode of Dr Who who he probably believes is the new chiarman of the HA. Now Daleks are another matter; Tamar is probably full of them.
Space Cadet Tsang! duffer - do us a favor Stay in UK
The reality:
Hong Kong Is Dying
Land is dear. Rent too damn high. An exodus of real estate refugees:
Chen Xiaoyi, immigration specialist, said that there has been a “massive number of requests” recently from people looking for info about moving out of HKG-If median housing prices are divided by median annual household income, HKG has the least affordable homes among 300 cities around the world.
HKG Exodus: Middle Class Leave City for Freedoms Overseas
“They are not so happy with the situation now in HKG. The majority are concerned about the education of their kids; it’s not easy to get them into a good school. Property prices are the 2nd concern. For middle class families, prices are really unaffordable”
Almost 4,000 people emigrated from HKG in the 1st half of 2013, a rise of 8% from last year. Migration is “the talk of the town,” said legislator Fernando Cheung. The cost of living is certainly a factor; Cheung cited data indicating his constituents would have to pay an average US$1 million to buy even a tiny apartment in HKG’s central district.
However, he also observed that frustration with the HKG Govt - & Beijing’s increasing erosion of the city’s fiercely guarded political autonomy - are also driving the latest exodus.


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