It's time to get our mojo working again
From malls to media, all is not well with our city. We need to pull together and get back on track
There is something wrong with Hong Kong at the moment and I think I know what it is: our mojo is not working.
Can you feel it too? It's hard to put your finger on the exact cause; maybe it's the cumulative effect of a number of things. But I think they all have at their root a sense that powerful forces are at work behind the scenes ruthlessly pursuing their own agenda while (at best) ignoring the interests of ordinary citizens, if not actively striving to do us down.
Take our property market. Lots of land was made available in the run-up to 1997 and in the first few years afterwards. But suddenly the focus seemed to be building investment vehicles for wealthy outsiders rather than reasonably priced homes for Hong Kong people. Then the Home Ownership Scheme was cancelled and land sales virtually dried up altogether. Next time we looked, we had all been priced out of our own market.
And what happened to our shopping malls? They used to have a variety of shops, and a food court where you could get a bowl of noodles or a slice of pizza and a drink to wash them down, plus of course a seat to rest your weary legs. A nice place to visit with the family. Next thing you know, the food court is gone (too many foreign domestic helpers clogging up the place) and the small shops have all been replaced by high-price stores selling luxury goods, mostly to visitors.
And how many times have you gone to the supermarket and discovered that your favourite brand is suddenly not available. Other brands of a similar product are on display, sometimes reasonably priced, but not the one you want. But since the two big chains together control nearly three quarters of the market, they are free to do pretty much as they wish and to hell with the customer.
Two incumbent television stations get an additional licence each, while the one potential new player - someone who might make programmes people actually want to watch - is denied an equal chance.
And while we're on the subject of choice, why is Hong Kong the only major aviation hub in the region without a vibrant low-cost carrier market segment? Just asking.
Medical professionals cleaning up on maternity services for wealthy mainlanders, infant milk formula distributors feeding the parallel goods trade, and the list goes on.
It would be too easy to blame the present government for all of these things; most of the situations have developed over many years, even decades.
And there are signs that the Leung team is working to address at least some of them (baby milk powder, anyone?).
Meanwhile, the feeling of alienation is building up, becoming more widespread, and manifesting itself in ways that are uncharacteristic of Hong Kong.
How else can we explain the absurd policies being pursued towards the Philippines. Same bracket as Syria for tourist safety? Threatening economic sanctions against a poor country?
And earlier this week the appalling spectacle of ordinary citizens publicly berating innocent mainland visitors. Yet hospitality is one of our pillar industries. Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot.
It's time we got our mojo working again.
Mike Rowse is managing director of Stanton Chase International and an adjunct professor at Chinese University. firstname.lastname@example.org