Lai See

John Tsang is already taking too much out of the economy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 12:51am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 January, 2014, 12:57am

The steady drip of leaks in recent weeks about the possibility of Hong Kong running out of reserves, together with the discussion about reducing "sweeteners" in the budget, suggests that officials are trying to manage expectations down ahead of the budget.

This was the reason for appointing the Working Group on Long Term Fiscal Planning. The working group has done its job and coincidentally agrees with John Tsang Chun-wah in thinking Hong Kong could run out of reserves in 20 years.

As we have said, Hong Kong's accrual accounts show reserves of HK$1.5 trillion compared with the HK$734 billion reserves mentioned by the finance chief.

It was hoped that with the formation of this committee there would be a broad reappraisal of government finances. Alas, this does not appear to have happened. The government's finances are out of control and it appears this sorry state will be allowed to continue.

The past fiscal year, a budget surplus of HK$3.5 billion was forecast. But we ended up with HK$65 billion, and we've had to put up with this kind of "forecasting" for years. Tsang happily announces these surpluses as if it is something he should be proud of. The subtext is: "Hasn't the government done well in managing the economy." The response to this should be a big "no". In racking up surpluses in this way, the government is taking money out of the economy. This money, if left in our hands, could be spent on goods and services. There is no need for the middle class, which everyone recognises is being squeezed, to be paying salaries tax, for example.

So instead of this handwringing over the possibility of depleting reserves, the government should be thinking about ways of not taking money out of the economy, rather than trying to set the stage for taking away even more money.


Josephine leaves after 14 years

Josephine Lee has worked in corporate communications for Credit Suisse for 14 years. Always amiable to deal with, it was with some surprise that we learnt she was leaving the firm. We understand that she is leaving the finance industry in search of a new challenge. But when we caught up with her, all she could offer by way of explanation was "no comment". So maybe time for a change.



For men who struggle to find gifts for the significant woman or women in their lives, relief is at hand. It comes from a recent website start-up in Hong Kong that helps men "find thoughtful and unique gifts" for women.

Indeed its press release helpfully points out that those who sign up now will be "just in time to get help on side-stepping one of the biggest gift-giving dilemmas known as Valentine's Day". Whatever happened to romance we wonder?

Co-founder Brian Chin says: "Men typically lack the time and patience to discover emerging brands with unique backstories, but those are the kinds of gift that will impress women."

Maybe they will be less impressed if they find out where the gifts came from.


Sex can make you smart

Our closing thought for the day comes courtesy of The Atlantic, which reports on a survey that considers the question of what we can do to increase our intelligence. Meditation, computerised working-memory training and learning musical instruments are among techniques that scientists say can boost intelligence. But it transpires that there is a simpler way; more sex can make you smarter.

Scientists from University of Maryland and Konkuk University in Seoul have discovered that sexual activity in mice and rats improves mental performance and increases neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) in the hippocampus, where long-term memories are formed. It was also found that sexual activity counteracts the memory-robbing effects of chronic stress in mice.

In addition, a recent study found that sexual activity helped to stave of Alzheimer's disease. Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), often a forerunner of Alzheimer's disease, were only about half as likely to have engaged recently in sexual activity as were their cognitively healthy peers. Of those with MCI, just 32.5 per cent had recently engaged in sex, compared with 62.3 per cent of those without the condition.


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