A spectacularly rude-looking headline on the website of Britain's Guardian newspaper caught my eye the other day. 'Our problem,' it read 'is that this country is run by knobjockeys.' The writer's complaint, it turned out, was that far too few of Britain's political leaders have ever had a real job, one where they might come into contact with common people or perhaps even get their hands dirty (perhaps, rather than 'knobjockeys', they should have been called 'nobjockeys' as in 'nobility'). As a result, officials are utterly out of touch with the lives of the ordinary working people they are supposed to be in office to serve. Blimey, I thought, if out-of-touch officials are a problem in Britain, where government ministers actually have to stand for popular election and where civil servants are routinely held to public account, then Hong Kong must be in a really desperate plight. Our government officials are not just out of touch, they seem to exist in an entirely separate universe to the rest of the population; one governed not by logic, reason and results, but by the arcane procedural imperatives of a paper-shuffling bureaucracy. If you don't believe it's a problem, just consider a small selection of the minor lunacies Hong Kong's government officials have inflicted on the city's long-suffering people over the last year or so. Bicycles: the Hong Kong government says it wants people to exercise more, pollute less and relieve traffic congestion. But that encouragement doesn't extend to any one who wants to get around by bicycle. In 2009, the government confiscated 10,846 'illegally parked' bicycles for being chained to railings, lamp posts 'and other government property'. When you consider that there is only one 'legal' parking space for every 15 bikes in the city, you have to conclude that the government's propaganda is just a smokescreen and that, for some mysterious reason of their own, officials are determined to make life as difficult as possible for Hong Kong's cyclists. Smoking: professing a concern for Hongkongers' health, the government banned smoking at bus stops. Yet despite their concern, officials do nothing about the thousands of outdated and heavily polluting buses that continue to belch thick clouds of poisonous exhaust fumes right into the faces of all the Hongkongers waiting at those very same non-smoking bus stops. Recycling: to encourage rubbish separation for recycling the government has recently installed colour-coded bins at rubbish stations across the New Territories - one colour for glass, another for paper and so on - complete with brightly coloured banners explaining their proper use. The message hasn't got through to everyone, however. When the refuse collectors come around, the bins' contents all get tipped together into the back of the same municipal refuse truck. Food labelling: to standardise nutritional information, the government decreed that imported foods must now carry local labels. However, accepting that in some cases the cost could be prohibitive, the government exempted low-volume imports. Now these foods are labelled with labels saying they are exempt from labelling, which of course obscures all the nutritional information on their original labels. Energy efficiency: last year the government introduced strict building energy codes, which among other things stipulate tough new standards for electric lighting. Except the standards only apply to new and newly renovated buildings, and even then they only apply to interior lighting, leaving owners free to waste as much energy as they like turning the city's night into day with thousands of blazing floodlights mounted on the exteriors of their energy-efficient new buildings. Tunnels: in an attempt to raise revenues at the underused Western Harbour Crossing the government approved a toll increase. Not surprisingly, drivers reacted by switching to the much cheaper Cross-Harbour Tunnel instead. The result? No increase in revenues at the Western tunnel, but congestion at the already crowded Cross-Harbour tunnel got considerably worse. Tamar: despite having a perfectly serviceable headquarters on Lower Albert Road, the government is building itself an extravagant new folly at the old HMS Tamar site. Officials excuse their profligacy by explaining that the Albert Road complex can be demolished to build a new shopping centre. Quite why Hong Kong needs another shopping mall (Wikipedia lists 78) instead of, say, a new public park, is unclear. But then replacing the Albert Road complex with a park would beg the awkward question of why the government didn't just stay in its old headquarters, site the new park at Tamar, and save HK$5 billion of public money into the bargain. Development: it is hardly surprising that the government was slow to stop development occurring illegally in an enclave within the Sai Kung country park, given officials' own enthusiasm for pouring concrete, installing unnecessary railings and generally wasting public money at every available opportunity. In one glorious case, the government is even busy resurfacing the roads and concreting the slopes in an entirely uninhabited New Territories village where all the houses have been scheduled for demolition. I could go on. There are plenty more small-scale examples of official lunacy, and a generous helping of large ones. But you get the picture. No doubt all these cases of government insanity make perfect sense in the parallel bureaucratic universe inhabited by our officials. But as far as the rest of us are concerned, the term 'knobjockeys' really isn't rude enough to do them justice.