Thursday, August 21, 2008

That time of year again

Tomorrow Hong Kong will probably be visited by a typhoon for the second time in three weeks. What fun! But more ominous than typhoon season is the fact that it is election season as well. Lots of legco seats are coming open and all the candidates are doing their dead level best to propose policies to help the poor that would actually hurt the poor and Hong Kong. We can deal with a typhoon. I don't know if Hong Kong can survive its politicians seeking short term, feel good fixes for systemic problems caused by an economy that is run by crooks, administered by incompetents who trained as yes men by the British and monitored by senile old communist who are afraid of losing power.

In case you didn't know, Hong Kong is an expensive place to live. This situation is made worse because of the exploitive nature of the society and the general dishonesty of the property development and banking cabal that really runs the place. I hate to say this because I hate Micro-Soft with a purple passion but Hong Kong CEO's could learn a lot from Bill Gates.

If the government REQUIRED companies to treat their employees like human beings rather than parts of the production machine, as Micro-Soft did and does voluntarily, then Hong Kong would be much closer to the beacon of freedom that some of its leaders think it is. Instead we have politician after politicians from party after party advocating subsidies for food, housing, fuel, rice, clothing, school fees, condoms and yum cha. Let's not even get into the fact that these would, over the medium and long term cause inflation, make the population dependent upon the government, reduce the desire of people to work hard and raise taxes to such a level that the economy would stall in a state of permanent stagflation with high unemployment like France or Sweden and end up causing riots when the subsidies had to be dropped as happened recently in Indonesia. Evidently economics is too complex a subject for our University of Hong Kong trained Mandarins to understand. They'd rather go warm and fuzzy because they know that Civil Servants like them will never go wanting anyway. So, they don't care if they ruin it for everybody else and starve the poor will claiming help them.

I guess it would never occur to any of them that maybe, just maybe they could eliminate or at least reduce the need for these subsidies if they fixed some of the systemic problem that make it so hard for people without lots of money to live here. While not comprehensive and not hierarchical here are some things that I think would help create a better society in Hong Kong for everyone, not just the super rich.

Change some laws.
Hong Kong desperately an anti collusion law. This would simply lower the cost of consumer goods. Other countries have these. They seem to work. Why does it take our government 15 years worth of studies to figure out how to implement one here? Couldn't we just copy the one from Canada or Australia? Could it be that the Mandarins here are in the pocket of the businesses that collude? Nah, couldn't be because we all know our government isn't corrupt.

Revoke the monopoly on companies that own various tunnels that cross the harbor. Then set the tunnel fees at a level that maintains the tunnels. All tunnels should have the same fee. This way traffic would use the tunnel that routes them best rather than the cheaper Hung Hom tunnel. This would also help with air pollution as well by getting vehicles to their destinations faster and by having fewer idling vehicles on the road waiting to enter the tunnel.

1. Require property agencies to list the actual area of a flat. This may, at first sound trite but it goes to the very heart of the matter. The way that the interior size of of flats is figured here is simply corrupt. Because it is corrupt at the most basic of levels then the whole system ends up being a scam. If my flat is 812 square feet then I should be taxed on 812 square feet not 1125 square feet. Likewise I should tell people, friend, potential buyers, or whoever that I live in an 812 square foot apartment. More importantly the developers in Hong Kong are able to make HUGE sums of money because they effectively inflate the cost of housing by claiming larger sizes each year for the same design of flat.

2. Require developers to use fewer subcontractors. This would save huge amounts. Rather than hiring a subcontractor that hires a subcontractor who hires a subcontractor, who hires a subcontractor who hires a subcontractor who hires a subcontractor who hires a subcontractor who then hires concrete workers couldn't Sun Hung Kai hire a girl to simply call the Union and say "Hey, we need 150 guys to build a building in Tai-Po. We'll pay union scale. They need to be there on Monday and the job will last 18 months." Hong Kong Land could then cut out most of the money they now pay the subcontractors to hire subcontractors and still increase their profit while lowering pricing at the same time.

3. Since Hong Kong and Shenzhen are both SAR's in China then sign an open borders agreement. This would cause the price of housing to fall in Hong Kong because it would give the residents here the ability live in Shenzhen and to cross the border without clearing customs. Think about this a minute. Entering Shenzhen requires basically the same type permit for the average Chinese citizen as does entering Hong Kong. If Hong Kong and Shenzhen the illegal immigration problem would not be affected at all. But, the free movement of goods and people between here and Shenzhen would benefit both. Everybody would benefit by this except for the evil and degenerate Hong Kong property developers.

Environmental Issues
We read and hear about all sorts of environmental issues from air pollution to plastic bags yet the so called green groups here consistently ignore things that could be done in Hong Kong that would be simple, save energy and money for the consumer and thus reduce the level of pollution.

1. Require all new automobiles, public buses and private coaches, not just taxi cabs to run on propane. This would get problematic with my open borders proposal above but I can see this happening before that because the oil companies here don't have the voice that the construction companies have. But, why not get Shenzhen to do this too?
2. The buildings here are incredible energy wasters. In the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and indeed most developed nations items like double glazed windows, ceiling fans, and insulated walls in buildings are almost taken for granted. Here we can't even get windows that come with built in bug screens! Rather than expensive and probably unworkable environmental proposals why not this:
A. Ceilings in all new flats should be at least 3 meters high because higher ceiling allow for hot air to rise and make the interior feel cooler
B. All windows should be double glazed in new construction or when replaced
C. Include awnings over windows in the design of new residential flats so that the interior of the flat is shaded.
D. Put ceiling fans in new flats

Making these four, simple changes in the construction of new buildings could probably save more energy and reduce pollution more than any of the schemes put forward by the idiotic Hong Kong greens

Here is where I lose a lot of people.
1. A 44 hour work week. This is a better option than a minimum wage. Indeed, if the government institutes a minimum wage without a limitation on the hours worked then, well you get the idea. However, limiting the number of hours that an employer can legally schedule a person without paying overtime will cause wages to rise because it will be more difficult for an employer to hire one person and work them 70 or eighty hours a week. Also, if you are one of the people here on the lower end of society who makes $12000 a month for 85 hours a week then when that job is reduced to 44 hours you can work two job if you want or maybe fire the maid and spend more time with your kids.

Now, would the dishonest, greedy, unethical and despicable employers here try to then cut salaries in 1/2 because they work hours had been cut in half? Yes, you bet they would and the obvious way to solve that problem is: set a minimum wage for both hourly and salaried employees. I must admit I do not like the idea of a minimum wage. In a perfect world I think that that it would do more harm than good. However, because the employers here are so unscrupulous that they are almost stereotypes of the evil businessman I think it is probably the only way to go. What do we set it at? Easy. Figure the cost of employing a foreign domestic helper including the insurance and return plane ticket. That is your minimum wage. If it is good enough for a Fillipino it ought to be good enough for a local Chinese. Furthermore, as an aside Hong Kong should cease the RACIST practice of allowing employers to pay Indonesian maids less than Filipinos simply because they come from Indonesia.

1. Abolish the HKCAAVQ. Instead require universities, ALL OF THEM to meet the standards used by international organizations such as WASC. If these are good enough for Standford and Harvard they are probably good enough for the Open University of Hong Kong. the same goes for all of these fly-by-night "schools" that offer degrees in everything from Astronomy to Zidego Dancing. If they cannot show that they have met WASC standards, they can't offer the program.
2. Reduce the class size in the public schools to 30 from 44.

1. Institute some mandatory sentencing for crimes. I've complained about this a lot over the years go read some of my previous post.
2. Depot any judge that received their legal degree from the formerly Great Britain that is now not even OK but the UK. (I'm an Anglophobe and proud)
3. Find some crime or invent some crime committed by Li Kai Shing, convict him and seize his assets. He has led the way in the abusive attitude exhibited by HK employers. I don't care how many buildings, hospitals and schools he has put his name on; the man is evil.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger with all the political answers

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