Now we know why Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee couldn't take part in the Intelligence Squared debate. We wrote yesterday about Ip and her withdrawal from the debate. She was due to speak in favour of the motion "China picks better leaders than the West". However, last week she told the organisers that her travel schedule had changed and she wouldn't therefore be able to participate. In light of yesterday's government announcement, it appears that she was "travelling" to Exco. We know it's just a debate, but given the dynamics of these occasions, there may have been some disquiet when "mainlandisation" is so contentious, at someone in such an exalted position giving a spirited defence of the mainland's one-party system.
She will add a degree of steeliness to Exco. She reportedly said during a TV news programme recently that personally she supported national education, and had she been an Exco member during that particular row, she would have "advised the government on how to defuse the political time bomb". This will no doubt be greatly reassuring to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who seems unable to spot political time bombs. But it also represents something of a personal transformation for Ip who way back in the mists of time appeared to light the blue touch paper with her handling of the Article 23 issue.
Intricacies of a traffic warden
There is a baffling logic that informs the way the Hong Kong police "control" illegal parking and jaywalking. Our man in Wan Chai recently observed conspicuously bad illegal parking in Thomson Road. He came across two traffic wardens patrolling the frontage of the tycoons' cafe, aka the Fook Lam Moon Restaurant. It has to be said the two of them were doing an excellent job in keeping the 50-yard stretch of road clear of illegal parkers. When our observer suggested they visit Thomson Road to clear the problem there, the reply was, "We can't do that, we've been told to remain here." Our man suggested that maybe one of them could go - but they could not be swayed.
The next day our observer came across a team of three traffic wardens walking past illegal parking that was causing traffic to back-up around Johnston and Hennessy roads. He suggested they do something. So they waved the parkers on. Asked why they didn't ticket them, the wardens explained that since there were drivers in the vehicles, that constituted a traffic offence and they were not allowed to give tickets in these situations. So off went our man scratching his head as to why traffic wardens could only give tickets to unoccupied cars, but are empowered to give tickets to jaywalkers.
A policy designed to fail
CLSA has an interesting take on the Hong Kong government's policies on the vexed issue of the property market. "Hong Kong property is widely owned and likely to correct if there is a policy surprise, which we believe there will be," it says in a recent note to clients. The stockbroker says the market has underestimated the government's determination to tame home prices. This, it believes, is partly because C.Y. Leung's first property measure after he took office was pro-demand in that the secondary Home Ownership Scheme market revamp in mid-July, drove up prices of smaller units. Subsequent tightening measures have been inconsequential. But CLSA says that "policies can be designed to fail when a relatively new and unpopular government needs consensus to embrace the idea that more aggressive actions are necessary." It expects an extension of the special stamp duty, further tightening of mortgage terms for second-homebuyers and a tax on non-locals. These measures, it says, could be introduced before Leung's policy address in 2013.
Corbat appeals from an early age
Citigroup's new CEO Michael Corbat almost didn't make it into banking according to Financial News. He was on the Harvard University football team and apparently considered a career in the sport. However, the charm of Citigroup was apparently irresistible and he has spent his entire working career with his firm. Corbat himself was particularly popular among the university's kitchen staff, according to Financial News, citing the Harvard Crimson: "The ladies who serve and prepare the food at [Harvard college] Currier House all have crushes on senior Mike Corbat."
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