Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 12:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 12:33am

When do we declare the cruise terminal a white elephant?

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.
 

Looking more closely at the schedule for dockings at our spanking new cruise terminal, we can see why Commissioner for Tourism Philip Yung was so keen on setting up an Asia Cruise Fund.

The idea is that participating markets "pool financial incentives" and essentially subsidise cruise lines in their marketing and product development costs to encourage them to visit. How effective this will be remains to be seen since there are now only two participants: Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"Other countries are being explored," a tourism board spokesman said hopefully. These apparently include ports in Japan and Vietnam.

The terminal opened in June last year but it has not exactly been overwhelmed with business.

In January, there was one visit lasting three days. Last month, there were four visits taking up seven days, and this month, there are three visits lasting seven days. There will be four visits taking up six days next month, while May will have one visit lasting a day. There are no visits scheduled for June, July and August, although in September there will be four visits for seven days.

As can be seen, this HK$8.2 billion facility is barely used. In June, its capacity will double when the second berth opens.

There are a couple of visits in January next year and then in February, the terminal will experience a first when two liners are scheduled to call at the same time.

You could easily be forgiven for thinking the facility was part of the Fantasy Kai Tak competition being organised by the Energizing Kowloon East Office of the Development Bureau. At what stage, we wonder, do we declare the terminal a white elephant?

 

Women's business

The Women's Foundation has produced yet another report on the condition of women in Hong Kong. The report released yesterday explores the prospects for women entrepreneurs.

While observing that there is only scant data available on the breakdown of small and medium-sized enterprise owners by gender, it says that more than 80 per cent of high-growth enterprises in Hong Kong were founded by men, thus trailing mainland China and the United States.

One key recommendation from the study is for the establishment of a women's entrepreneurship centre, possibly within the Trade and Industry Department. The purpose is to apply a "gender lens" to the development of the SME sector and business ownership. "The new centre would be tasked with the systematic collection of gender-disaggregated data and detailed analysis of the needs of women entrepreneurs, leading to a policy framework for women business owners."

The report also calls on more "companies to embrace supply chain diversity with a particular focus on supporting and providing opportunities to women-owned business", while also asking them "to procure goods and services from women-owned business".

We support much that the foundation stands for in terms of gender stereotyping and discrimination against women. But we find it hard to go along with the ideas expressed in the report. Businesses will surely buy from companies owned by women if they offer competitive goods and services.

Yes, we understand that women may have trouble in accessing credit, but surely all small businesses do. But maybe we are missing something, and we are, as ever, prepared to be convinced otherwise.

 

Bankers' pay

Five years on and the debate on bankers' pay continues with no real sign of resolution in sight.

Most people don't like the idea of bonus caps. Some argue the caps are necessary to reduce the proportion of variable pay in total remuneration as this encouraged bankers to take crazy risks which lead to systemic risks, a recent article in Financial News suggests.

Some say it was a populist measure to reduce the overall pay of hated banker's pay. The problem with bonuses, as the article points out, is not that they get paid for making a profit but rather the profit is often transitory.

Enter Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, with a suggestion that bonuses can be clawed back over a six-year period. Will this resolve this vexed issue?

 

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

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