• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 1:46am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 1:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 April, 2014, 1:01am

So who's responsible for the MTR debacle?


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.

Good to see the Hong Kong government's attitude towards the Principal Officials Accountability System remains unchanged. That is, no matter how embarrassing a blunder, make sure nothing sticks to you. The latest debacle surrounds the MTR and the news that the HK$67 billion high speed rail project will now take an additional not so high-speed two years to complete and millions of dollars in additional costs.

As secretary for transport and housing and MTR board member, this comes under Anthony Cheung Bing-leung's responsibility. In the fine tradition of those with responsibility seeking to distance themselves from ordure his response was, "I was totally caught by surprise", saying he had only heard of the delay at the weekend.

It is perhaps an improvement on the first words uttered by Michael Suen - "There is no need for anyone to resign" - when as secretary for housing planning and lands in December 2004, he botched the listing of the Link Reit.

But we catch Cheung's drift; "I am not to blame for this."


Top money minds

We see that ACCA HK, that is, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (not to be confused with Air Conditioning Contractors of America) has launched a CFO Club to connect "top minds in finance". Speaking at the opening ceremony the chairman of ACCA HK, Roy Tsang, introduced the new club. "We aim to make the CFO Club a platform for its members to share insights in issues of common interest affecting the finance profession."

We weren't invited to the ceremony but we've been sent the press statement about the event along with extensive gobbets from the panel discussion. One selected for transmission to the press reads: "Under the current fiercely competitive business environment, finance leaders play the role of being a value creator, or a driver in the process of finance transformation, they drive for reform. From my personal experience, CFOs have already emerged to be someone who takes a leading role in a company's transformation." Hmm … perhaps it's just as well we weren't invited.


A matter of perception

Cathay Pacific Airways has been named Hong Kong's most attractive employer. This odd sounding award is not, as you might suppose, based on a survey of employees. Rather it is a survey of how 6,254 people answer an online survey on how they perceive the company and only applies to the 75 largest companies by workforce size.

So what does this award tell you. Not necessarily that the company in question is a good place to work, but rather that it gives the impression of being a good place to work. Its an indication of how well companies manage their "brand". The first runner up in this weird survey was the MTRC Corp, followed by Dragonair. The most Attractive Employer in the banking and financial services sector was - would you believe - HSBC. Last but not least is the award for Best Workplace Culture, which went to Hong Kong Disneyland.

Colin Chang, manager, front of house staffing at Hong Kong Disneyland, nicely summed up the proceedings with his observation that, "as a brand, Disney represents happiness, positivity, magic and dreams come true for all. We strongly believe in the philosophy of 'happy me, happy guests'". Wonderful.


DAB face off

Good to see the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong getting so much face from government officials and the Liaison Office. Its 22nd birthday party was attended by the Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah along with the Director of Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaomi. But what will the DAB have to do in return?

We've already seen some shifts in its stance. Last year it voted against granting funding for the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator in Legco's Environmental Affairs Panel. This year it has supported funding. It was instrumental in killing off budget plans to increase the price of a packet of cigarettes by HK$40. Instead there was only a HK$4 increase. Legco has been a big stumbling block for the government but its new love-in with the DAB may ease that difficulty.


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


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

I have no vested interest in the MTR, but I am always impressed by the vast numbers of people it moves, the trains arrive very punctually and literally on the spot, both the trains and the public areas are always clean and litter-free despite the density of travelers, and personal safety is never an issue. Try for example the trains in Melbourne, or London, and you will smell the urine in the stations, see graffiti inside the trains and leftover bottles rolling on the floor, not to mention the dangers of traveling at certain times of the night, and depending on the location you are going. The Melbourne train system despite changing over to the swipe ticket system used by MTR was years overdue, and hiccups on the ticketing system lasted a while. I am grateful for our MTR.
Let's put WKCD in charge of the MTR, they can also take over the completely useless new cruise terminal - to connect all three sites, Henry Tang can be appointed to oversee the creation of a new tunnel network ..... We were told by the CEO of WKCD that "it's complicated" - the reality is, none of these projects are actually complicated, they are merely run by incompetent fools, vastly overpaid and with zero respect in delivering to Hong Kong the infrastructure we need to stay competitive ..... In their hands, Hong Kong will be nothing more than a suburb of Shenzen ....
It's particularly odd that CX would win an award like this as it seems there is a labour dispute in the press every few months. My impression is CX would be a terrible place to work if the labor disputes in the press are any indication.
Likely an engineered "delay" by MTR management in order to anger the Minister of HK and Macao Affairs in Beijing, thus getting his support (by force) to punch through the guest worker program in order to speed up the construction. Done with debating, so this is how in HK to get cheap construction labor. Clever.


SCMP.com Account