CONSULATE GENERAL OF SWITZERLAND IN HONG KONG
|A condensed press review prepared
the Consulate General of Switzerland in Hong Kong
September jobless rate lowest in five years: The unemployment
rate last month improved to 4.7%, the lowest level since July 2001,
with the number of people with jobs exceeding those joining the
HK leads Asia race for hedge funds: Hedge funds activity
has grown significantly in HK, with assets under management jumping
2.6 times to US$33.5 billion over the past two years, the Securities
and Futures Commission said. A new SFC survey showed that last year
HK attracted US$1.58 billion in capital to start-up hedge funds,
making it the fastest-growing hedge fund market in Asia ahead of
Japan and Australia.
Economy in good health, figures show: The economy is thriving,
according to the latest government figures, which showed a 10% year-on-year
rise in the volume of exports in the first eight months of this
year. The volume of re-exports from January to August rose by 9.6%,
while domestic exports grew by 23.6% year on year. Imports rose
Market capitalisation the 8th largest in the world: According
to the HK stock exchange, HK's market capitalisation reached to
HK$10.81 trillion (05.10.2006), the 8th largest in the world. Initial
public offerings IPO amounted to HK$128 billion, an ever highest
record, in the first three quarters of 2006. Given the Industrial
and Commercial Bank of China's giant initial public offering, IPO
is expected to reach HK$200 billion this year. Swiss market capitalisation
(Swiss Exchange) is the 10th largest in the world.
HK next test bed for fully convertible yuan, says Li: HK
will likely be the next testing ground - after Tianjin - for full
convertibility of the yuan, according to Bank of East Asia chairman
David Li. He believes HK in three to six months will be the next
test bed after the pilot plan to launch full convertibility of the
yuan starts in Tianjin.
Friedman blasts 'death of HK's prosperity policy': Leading
United States economist Milton Friedman has lambasted HK for abandoning
laissez-faire economics, mourning "the death of the policy
on which the territory's prosperity was built". His latest
comments reflect growing concerns in HK that the city is moving
away from the economic blueprint that many believe brought it great
wealth in the past 30 years. Such worries were sparked by off-the-cuff
remarks by Chief Executive Mr Donald Tsang after a seminar in which
government and business leaders discussed how to integrate HK with
China's latest five-year economic plan. Mr Tsang said the policy
of so-called "positive non-intervention" - a phrase coined
by former finance chief Sir Philip Haddon-Cave to describe the government's
policy of minimal intervention in the economy - was over. Mr Friedman
said "Although the territory may continue to grow, it will
no longer be such a shining symbol of economic freedom." The
government defended its decision. "The term 'positive non-interventionism'
is ambiguous. Big market, small government is a more accurate description
of the government's long-established financial approach."
Boost for yuan business: The central government will give
higher priority to helping yuan business develop further in HK.
Premier Wen Jiabao made the promise at a closed-door meeting with
Chief Executive Donald Tsang in Guangzhou.
CE defends wages policy: Chief Executive Donald Tsang has
defended his rejection of a new minimum-wage law, predicting any
attempt to push legislation would lead to a "bloody fight"
in the Legislative Council - and ultimately hurt HK's low-wage earners.
Tsang has been sharply criticized for a decision to introduce a
"Wage Protection Movement" instead of directly legislating
a minimum wage.
Domestic politics : Policy Address
Tsang plays safe and avoids election issues: Chief Executive
Donald Tsang has focused his remaining tenure on developing the
economy and fighting air pollution, steering clear of major new
initiatives in his final policy address of the term. Tsang's speech
before the Legislative Council, however, may be more notable for
the hot-button issue he sidestepped: a new minimum wage law. His
speech was a cautious one, light on concrete promises to the public
and heavy on the challenges the new administration will have to
face when its next term begins in eight months. In particular, Tsang
singled out three challenges - sustaining economic growth, developing
democracy and bridging the widening wealth gap - that could form
the basis for new policy under the next chief executive, "whoever
that may be."
Bright and light, calm and peace - a smart game for now:
In tone with the azure colour of its cover, Chief Executive Donald
Tsang's second policy address seeks to instil a feeling of brightness
and lightness, calm and peace - at least for now. He has exercised
self-restraint by not venting bitterness over the rejection of his
proposed constitutional reforms. He made no further effort to explain
how sending the West Kowloon Cultural District project back to the
drawing board equated to strong governance. Nor did he venture into
the political quagmire of the government's "friends and foes"
and the danger zone of the goods and services tax. The first year
of his two-year term might have left much to be desired. But he
is acutely aware of the risk of kicking up the dust. Doing so could
spoil the present feel-good atmosphere and increase the uncertainty
in the socio-political landscape in the future.
Critics accuse chief of a lack of vision: Democrats and the
Civic Party said they were disappointed by the chief executive's
lack of vision and avoidance of controversial issues, but most lawmakers
welcomed initiatives to help parents and reduce pollution. The critics
attacked Donald Tsang for not doing enough to ensure the well-being
of underprivileged workers, saying a voluntary minimum-wage charter
would not work and would only cause them to suffer more.
Tsang hits back at critics over universal suffrage: Chief
Executive Donald Tsang, reacting to strong criticism he had sidestepped
the question of political development in his policy address, said
the introduction of universal suffrage would not immediately solve
all of HK's problems. He told legislators at a question-and-answer
session his government's aim is to find a model of democracy that
will best suit HK's needs. Democratic Party legislator Yeung Sum
opened the attack, accusing Tsang of intentionally dodging the issue
of universal suffrage in his address.
Domestic politics: GST
Politicians blasted for GST defiance: Secretary for Financial
Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma has launched a scathing attack
on political parties working against the proposed goods and services
tax, accusing them of harboring political motives and being "short-sighted."
Speaking on radio ahead of an expected tough debate on the controversial
tax in the Legislative Council, Ma insisted the GST is the "right
way to go." While acknowledging there is increasing opposition
to the tax, Ma argued the political parties are serving "political
purposes" rather than the interests of the territory in the
Lawmakers hit Tang GST bid: Legislators have sounded the
death knell for the proposed goods and services tax five months
before the consultation period is due to end. Despite pleas by Financial
Secretary Henry Tang to allow for a full public consultation, lawmakers
voted 40-4 to "Oppose the introduction of a goods and services
tax," a nonbinding motion moved by the Democratic Party's Yeung
Tang plows ahead with GST fight: Financial Secretary Henry
Tang is bent on getting the controversial goods and services tax
off the ground despite its overwhelming rejection by lawmakers,
vowing the public consultation exercise will continue.
Domestic politics (other matters)
Anson Chan warns of single-voice society: Anson Chan warned
HK lacked distinguished political party leaders and said the city
was becoming a single-voice society. "There is increasingly
a tendency for political parties to lack distinguished political
leaders who can lead discussions and the examination of issues which
concern the public," Mrs Chan said in an interview on RTHK.
"I am worried that society has increasingly become a single-voice
society." Mrs Chan's comments came a day after Chief Executive
Donald Tsang outlined his philosophy of "pragmatic politics",
saying politicians who place an emphasis on political belief will
become "inflexible, closed-minded and will eventually be displaced
President Hu may deliver road map for democracy on first visit
to HK: President Hu Jintao may deliver a road map for democracy
during his first visit to the city, but the blueprint will be contingent
on HK finding a consensus. Sources familiar with the situation said
Mr Hu was set to deliver important messages on the city's political
and economic future when he visited next year to mark the 10th anniversary
of the handover. The sources said the central government was considering
a so-called dual-tier model for the 2012 chief executive election,
which would require candidates to gain a certain threshold of support
to gain nomination.
Bosses back minimum-pay scheme: The five major employer associations
pledged their support for the government's "minimum wage movement"
and promised to call on their 20,000 members to join in. They also
proposed an accreditation scheme for employers who agreed to pay
their cleaners and security guards a market rate reported quarterly
by the Census and Statistics Department - now HK$5,043 for cleaners,
and for guards between HK$6,358 and HK$7,300 depending on hours
Business groups 'blocking' HK democracy: The only declared
candidate in the race to become HK's next chief executive has identified
the territory's conservative business community as the primary obstacle
to democratic reform and says his long-shot candidacy will "expose
the absurdity of HK's electoral system". "The main obstacle
in the way of universal suffrage in HK is really the business community,"
Alan Leong, a barrister and legislator, said in an interview with
the Financial Times. "I really believe that it is this chorus
of business people singing against universal suffrage that explains
Beijing's reluctance to introduce it in HK."
Sino-Vatican ties will have to wait - Zen: There is unlikely
to be a breakthrough in Sino-Vatican ties before mid-2008 after
the Communist Party wraps up a five-yearly leadership transition
cycle, HK's Catholic leader said. It would be provocative for the
state-backed Catholic Church or the underground church to consecrate
new bishops and both should refrain from doing so, said Cardinal
Joseph Zen, who returned to the city this week from a trip to the
Minister hails final passage of smoking bill into law: The
much-delayed and amended bill that will ban smoking from January
1 at most indoor workplaces and public places was finally passed
into law. But controversy continued over the last-minute revelation
by Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food York Chow that the government
will study the feasibility of smoking rooms in restaurants and entertainment
Green push to update air quality standards: Green group Friends
of the Earth has voiced grave concern over what it calls HK's "outdated"
air quality objectives, and urged Chief Executive Donald Tsang to
confront the problem in his policy address. The group's acting director,
Edwin Lau, accused the government of putting public health at risk
with standards "too lenient" for the territory's deteriorating
Save or sink, hero tells HK: HK stands to lose more than
its "World City" brand if it continues to ignore the reality
of global warming, polar explorer Rob Swan has warned: The SAR and
the mainland, which together are responsible for 14.2% of the world's
greenhouse gas emissions, are now regarded internationally as the
"biggest threat" to global climate change. But if that
piece of news doesn't spur HKers into action, Swan offered a new
revelation: the island city's penchant for cold indoor temperatures,
bright lights and extravagant living could also hasten its sinking
- both economically and literally.
Macau gaming income soars: Macau's gaming revenue leapt 37%
in September to HK$4.5 billion, boosted by the September 6 opening
of the US$1.2 billion Wynn Macau casino resort, according to official
statistics. Visitor arrivals rose 20% for the month to 1.75 million,
outpacing the overall gain of 15% so far this year. "People
expected Wynn would be expanding the market," said Deutsche
Bank analyst Karen Tang. "But I don't think they realised it
would be an expansion of this magnitude."
Work towards education-hub plan, SAR urged: HK could position
itself as an international education hub, bridging the West with
the mainland by utilizing its special historical background and
extensive international network built up in the past, according
to several academics from Britain and HK.
HK urged to attract more experts: More experts and talented
people should be lured to HK to strengthen it as an international
centre, members of a top government advisory body have urged. Central
Policy Unit chief Lau Siu-kai said members had expressed concern
at a meeting of the Commission on Strategic Development's executive
committee that the city did not have enough experts to uphold its
international status. "Some members suggested HK should set
up a world-class business and management school to nurture talents
and professionals," Professor Lau said, adding that HK's universities
and the private sector could work together to provide training.
Overworked staff won't give it a rest: HK's workers are overworked
and overstressed - and they do not seem to mind at all, a new study
has found. Some experts are concerned, however, that the apparent
willingness to work overtime, sometimes without even taking a day
off all year, will have long-term consequences for the health and
satisfaction of workers.
Press articles related to Switzerland
Swiss use Bollywood to woo tourists (The Standard, 05.10.2005):
Bollywood actor Ashutosh Rana slips between two fast-moving trams
on a busy square in Bern, Switzerland, turns around and looks coolly
into the camera through blue-tinted sunglasses. The 40-year-old
actor's action adventure Kshana Kshana, or Moment by Moment, is
just the sort of film Switzerland wants Indian producers to shoot,
showing ordinary Helvetian life. Many Bollywood films shot in Switzerland
camouflage the location, casting its mountains and valleys as Kashmir
because the war-torn north Indian state is too dangerous for filmmakers.
Now, Switzerland is asking the world's most prolific film industry
to play a role in the revival of its 23 billion franc (HK$144 billion)
tourism trade by shooting movies in identifiably Swiss locations
to lure Indian visitors.
Vatican honour for ex-Caritas official (South China Morning Post,
30.10.2006): Former Caritas HK International co-ordinator Kathi
Zellweger, who was recently appointed country director to Pyongyang
for the Swiss government, has received one of the highest awards
that can be given to a lay person by the Vatican for her work in
North Korea. Ms Zellweger, who worked for Caritas in HK for 28 years,
the past 10 of which were concerned with aid and development in
North Korea, was made a Dame of Saint Gregory the Great.
This is a review of the Hong Kong media and does
not necessarly represent the opinion of the Consulate General
of Switzerland. The Consulate General of Switzerland in
Hong Kong does not bear any responsibility for the topicality,
correctness, completeness or quality of the information
provided. Liability claims regarding damage caused by the
use of any information provided, including any kind of information
which might be incomplete or incorrect, will therefore be
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