Lai See

Hong Kong's Philippine response burdened by bureaucracy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 2:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 November, 2013, 12:45pm

Citi has announced that it has raised a further US$500,000 for the Philippine relief effort as a result of pledging all its commissions from sales and trading in the Asean region on Wednesday to the Philippine Red Cross. This is in addition to the US$250,000 it pledged on Monday.

Other private-sector donations include more than US$1 million from HSBC and US$1 million pledged by Kuwaiti-owned private equity firm KGLI Asia, while Ikea has given US$2.7 million. There has also been help from Australia, South Korea, Japan, the United States and Britain in the form of cash and physical support.

China initially offered a derisory US$100,000, which it increased yesterday by pledging US$1.6 million in supplies.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, is still fixated with its spat over the hostage shooting, with Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor yesterday stubbornly maintaining the issues of typhoon relief and hostage-taking were unrelated. If it persists with this wrong-headed approach, Hong Kong will find out, when it attempts to levy sanctions on the Philippines, that much of the rest of the world disagrees with its approach. Who knows maybe some countries will apply sanctions to Hong Kong for its miserable response.

The government will ask the Legislative Council today to transfer money to the disaster relief fund so that it can make a donation, albeit six days after the extent of the disaster became apparent.

As with everything the government does these days, there is a lengthy bureaucratic preamble. The discussion paper for today's action notes ironically that the purpose of the fund is "to provide a ready mechanism for Hong Kong to respond swiftly to international appeals for humanitarian aid". It includes a laborious justification for topping up the fund and the various control mechanisms over the use of the funds.

Under the heading "Public Consultation", the paper notes almost apologetically that "in view of the urgency", the administration has been unable to conduct any prior consultation with the relevant Legco panel. This, you understand, leaves the administration horribly exposed to the possibility of criticism and reduced to relying on its own initiative in taking a decision unsupported by consensus.

A bureaucratic nightmare.


Cathay's fanfare blues

We hear of disenchantment with the grand finale of Cathay Pacific Airways' first anniversary of "fanfares" - the offer of a limited number of cheap fares to sundry parts of the region and further afield. The anniversary fanfares over the past four Tuesdays have seen even cheaper air flights and hotel offers.

However, one reader's efforts last Tuesday have left him infuriated and frustrated by the process. Having logged on to the site, he was kept waiting for an hour and a quarter before it began to take his booking. That took 10 minutes as the site kept crashing, but he eventually made it through to the end and was about to pay when the site crashed again and came back with an error message referring him to various Cathay phone numbers. None of these were answered.

Our reader observed: "I am now even more p**s*d off than if I had never gotten onto the system because I feel cheated by Cathay. How could they turn something positive into such a PR and marketing disaster?"

Cathay says it had put extra resources in place, and when it opened at 8am, there were already 18,000 visitors on the site, which rose rapidly to 70,000. Without conceding that the site actually crashed, Cathay told Lai See: "Regrettably an unforeseen intermittent technical issue with the reservation system meant that some customers would have encountered a problem with final confirmation of their tickets." It says the matter is being investigated and apologises to those affected.


Dangerous liaisons

We see that the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government is spreading its wings in Hong Kong. Anecdotal evidence suggests it has been widening its intervention in Hong Kong affairs for some years. It has now decided that it needs more real estate to enable it to conduct its business. It has agreed to buy the 22nd floor, comprising 12,060 square feet, of the Rykadan Capital Tower, an uncompleted building on Hoi Bun Road, Kwun Tong, for HK$135 million from Celestial Asia Securities.


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