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Thread: Pollution and laissez faire government in HK. As a libertarian how do we make this work?

  1. #1

    Pollution and laissez faire government in HK. As a libertarian how do we make this work?

    To start off with I love Hong Kong. This place is awesome, if I ever wanted to convince someone to visit HK this is the last article in the world I would ever want to show them. It's the only thing I truly dislike. It's not horrible and smoggy everyday, but it's more and more frequent.


    It's an amazing city, with a lot to offer. It's an awesome vibe like a NYC or London, but it has peaceful mountains and beautiful green hiking trails, and a mix between western and eastern influences and some American pockets and European flavor all in 1 city.

    The government for economic and business purposes, is AWESOME. So unbelievably super easy to open a business and get to work. They don't have tons of horrible crazy regulations, you just run your business, even having an employee is easy, you have a standard contract and everyone signs it and done. It's just so SIMPLE. Taxes are simple, business is simple. You can spend MORE time focused on making money, instead of focusing all your energy on presenting to the government how much you made, presenting to auditors how you conduct your business, giving yourself the most advantageous tax positions etc. (I can't believe how many hours I wasted on Sarbens Oxly (SOX) compliance back in the US, it was pointless and costly and benefited NO ONE except the auditors). Plus I remember that feeling back in the US, where every step I took it had a tax or government regulation or impact to it.

    Here it's small government pro business.

    Basically in all walks of life, the government pretty much leaves you alone. But they also have FREE government health care, AND private health care.

    I've even seen cash negotiations with Hospitals if the person just wants to pay for it private no insurance (certain surgery etc). I've seen some of the SUPER gorgeous hospital rooms that look like beautiful hotel suites for people that wanna fork big $$$ for a nice hospital room.

    What I love is it's just pretty simple, as long as your not doing anything stupid or hurting someone else, you get left alone for the most part, a few exceptions but it's pretty nice.

    But does all that small government, pro business attitude come with a price?

    I used to hear the pollution problems were all because of the China factories not too far away, but now it seems it's the buses, the taxis, the cars, the boats, the ships, it's the city itself. It is seems like the small government folks are sitting on their hands and not too active in terms of being strict with pollution.

    I'm thrilled with the small government pro business attitude, the libertarian in me loves it! but is it bad for the environment? I hate pollution!


    http://www.businessweek.com/news/201...tsang-s-legacy

    Harboring an unlicensed duck in Hong Kong can land a fine of HK$50,000 ($6,440) after the world’s first human deaths from bird flu were recorded in the city 15 years ago. That’s 50 times the penalty for driving a vehicle belching smoky fumes.

    Failure to force aging buses and trucks off Hong Kong’s streets is a key cause of air pollution that results in more than 3,000 premature deaths a year, according to Civic Exchange, a think tank. In contrast, the H5N1 virus has killed 350 people worldwide since 1997, World Health Organization data show.

    “People normally don’t realize that air pollution can cause cancer, heart and respiratory diseases,” said Carlos Dora, coordinator at the Geneva-based health agency’s Department of Public Health and Environment, who puts the global annual death toll from filthy urban air at 1.3 million. “Those are the diseases that really are the big, big plague.”

    As Chief Executive Donald Tsang steps down after seven years in office, he leaves a city that boasts the world’s most valuable stock exchange, hosted three of the five biggest initial share sales in history, and is the best place on the globe for business, a new gauge by Bloomberg Rankings shows. Blotting the record is another superlative: the most polluted international financial center.

    New York, London, Tokyo and Singapore all have cleaner air and more ambitious improvement targets, according to WHO data and the city governments’ websites. As China opens its economy, removing the capital controls that led investors to use Hong Kong as a proxy for Chinese growth, pollution risks undermining Tsang’s economic successes.
    Singapore Bound

    “I am leaving Hong Kong explicitly because of the air,” said Alex Turnbull, an Australian banker at a Wall Street firm, who plans a move to Singapore in May. “When capital controls leave, how on earth will this city stay competitive? Hong Kong is at risk of being irrelevant in the long run.”

    The government will continue to strive for better air quality, “both for our citizens’ health and to attract overseas talents and enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness as a financial hub and tourist destination,” Tsang’s office said in an e- mailed response to questions yesterday.

    Sandwiched between the Asian headquarters of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) (JPM) and a Tiffany & Co. (TIF) (TIF) outlet, the air-quality meter in the Central business district has registered an average roadside pollution level of “high” or “very high” every day bar one this year. In 1999, 66 percent of days were at those levels. By 2010 and 2011, it was more than 90 percent. Today in Central the roadside reading was 70, and 89 in the Causeway Bay shopping district, government data show.
    Lung Cancer

    Airborne particles from vehicle exhausts and power stations have the greatest impact on human health, linked to 9 percent of lung cancer deaths globally, WHO estimates.

    Hong Kong’s average reading of particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers -- about 1/7th the width of a human hair -- or less in 2009 was 50 micrograms per cubic meter, according to a WHO survey of 1,100 cities. While that was less than half Beijing’s, it compares with 29 in Singapore and London, 23 in Tokyo and 21 in New York. The WHO guideline is 20.

    Average annual roadside levels of nitrogen dioxide, which inflames lungs, increased 27 percent in Hong Kong last year from 2007, Environmental Protection Department data show. The 2011 levels were more than triple WHO safety limits.

    Hong Kong also adopted the lowest or second-lowest interim targets WHO offers. The agency has a number of objectives aimed at poorer countries just “getting onto the curve,” said Anthony Hedley, honorary professor of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public of Health. “It’s not intended for a modern developed city like Hong Kong.”
    Trends Down

    The government says pollution trends are down, with a one- third drop in particulates since 1999. Nitrous oxide is 28 percent lower and sulphur dioxide has fallen 56 percent, government data show. Still, Nitrogen dioxide is up 24 percent, ozone 21 percent, and those pollutants that had dropped are either up or little changed since 2009.

    The city’s observatory recorded 750 hours of reduced visibility that wasn’t caused by fog, cloud or rain in 1999; that rose to 1,399 hours last year.

    “It is such a shame as Hong Kong is an incredibly beautiful place the 10 days a year when you actually realize that the tree-lined hills are dark green and not a washed out gray-green color,” said Alexander West, founder of Blue Pool Capital, a hedge fund.

    Tens of thousands of finance professionals and other visitors to this week’s Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) Asian investment conference and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, the premier tournament in the truncated form of the game, were greeted by smoggy skies this week. The March 25 final of the Rugby pageant coincides with the election of Tsang’s replacement.
    Peak Lookout

    At Victoria Peak yesterday, tourists seeking the iconic view across Hong Kong’s skyscrapers to the mountains over the harbor were disappointed.

    “I’ve been to the Peak six times and I’ve never seen the Kowloon mountains,” said Nadia Sturzengegger, from Lucern, Switzerland, who first flew into Hong Kong in 2007 when working for Swiss International Air Lines AG. “Maybe I was just unlucky.”

    At the nearby Laurence Lai Gallery, Maurice Szeto, 48, mans the shop selling photographs of Hong Kong scenes. Tourists often complain about the visibility, he said.

    “Some even take photos of our photos to show the skyline to their friends back home,” he said. “I used to come up here as a teenager and you could see everything.”

    Tsang repeatedly pledged to tackle the problem, including a vow in May to introduce air quality objectives before leaving office June 30. That timeline has slipped to 2014.
    Economic Impact

    The government has to “carefully assess the economic and social impacts” of tightening air-quality rules, Tsang said last year.

    The laissez faire ideology of “big market, small government” that underpins policy in the city has enabled industries such as financial services and real estate development to flourish, generating taxes that endowed the government with a HK$595 billion pot of savings. It has also created the most unequal society in Asia, where the poorest 10 percent earned a median wage of HK$3,500 a month in the third quarter of last year, down from HK$4,400 in the comparable period of 1997, government figures show.

    Unlike most big cities, Hong Kong’s bus services are run by private franchises under government supervision. Forcing operators to modernize fleets would mean higher fares that many Hong Kong people already struggle to meet. The government last year allocated HK$5.17 billion to help low-income workers with travel costs.
    Tourism, Infrastructure

    Policies to spur economic growth and create jobs -- such as more tourism and infrastructure spending -- add to pollution. Tour buses ferrying some of the 28 million mainland Chinese visitors last year choke roads; the planned third runway at Chek Lap Kok would only be able to operate at 40 percent capacity to meet the proposed air-quality guidelines, a study found. The two-year delay in introducing the objectives may allow the project to go ahead using current standards.

    Outside of environmental impact assessments for specific projects, the EPD has few legal powers to force change where it has no jurisdiction, such as transport.

    For issues like bird flu that affect “all stakeholders -- businesspersons, government officials and the general public” the government will be “highly motivated,” said Ming Sing, an associate professor of social sciences at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “If interests are divided, such as for tackling air pollution, that’s another story.”
    New York, Tokyo

    In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought together 25 city agencies in 2007 to target climate change, green buildings, air quality and solid waste. The city legislated emissions cuts from school buses and heating oil, and reduced pollution from ferries, private trucks and construction vehicles. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

    The Tokyo 2008 environmental plan seeks to “realize the cleanest air among the world’s largest cities.”

    In Hong Kong, a ban on idling engines that came into effect on Dec. 15 took four years to pass from public consultation to law, and with so many exemptions that critics said it was meaningless. No drivers have been fined to date, the EPD said in an e-mailed response to questions this week.

    The government also spent HK$90 million to fund a study on electronic road pricing in 1997, which was never implemented. Singapore’s ERP project, started in 1998, decreased traffic volumes up to 25 percent, according to a 2010 report sponsored by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.

    Bus Fleet

    Hong Kong has lagged behind rivals in upgrading its bus fleet. More than half of the 5,798 buses plying franchised routes in the city at the end of last year were Euro II standard or earlier, according to a Feb. 22 statement from the EPD. London has about 1,000 Euro II buses in its fleet of about 8,500 vehicles, according to Transport for London. Singapore phased out its Euro I buses last year, leaving fewer than 600 Euro II vehicles out of more than 4,000, according to a document from Hong Kong’s legislature.

    Euro II models emit 2 1/2 times as much particulate matter as Euro III standard buses, and 12 1/2 times as much as Euro V, according to Hong Kong-based Civic Exchange.
    Policy Delays

    The Hong Kong government plans to retrofit buses with catalytic converters that scrub out noxious fumes, as well as trialing hybrid and electric vehicles.

    To date, six buses have been fitted with the filters in a year-long test that started in September. The trial of hybrids is due to begin at the end of next year, while no funding has yet been provided to buy six electric buses, the EPD said in a Feb. 22 response to a question from a lawmaker.

    “These delays in policy are accountable in terms of illnesses, damage to quality of life,” Hedley said. “We’ve got cohorts of children that have been exposed to the most intensive levels of exposure to very toxic air pollutants for quite a long time.”

    Meantime, construction of roads, including an expressway beneath an existing highway through Central, Causeway Bay and Wanchai, as well as a 19-mile (30-kilometer) bridge linking Zhuhai and Macau to Hong Kong, may spur demand for cars that offset their impact on current congestion. In the decade to the end of last year, the number of private cars jumped 21 percent, Transport Department data show.

    “The trend for many cities is to take care of the quality of urban life because they are competing for the same kinds of industries: finance, services, tourism,” WHO’s Dora said. “Cities are striving to be better, and those which don’t will suffer.”



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  3. #2
    blame the pollution on shenzhen

  4. #3
    You don't need regulations to reduce pollution and other problems like that. What I suggest is to remove most regulations and put in a system that makes companies income taxes conditional based on how well they treat society. For example, if they don't pollute at all, they would pay no taxes. If they polluted a lot, they would pay most of their cash earnings in taxes. This system would obviously be expanded into other areas outside pollution as well. Pretty much anything you think is important for a company to do, you can have that in the system too.

  5. #4
    By the way, you are right about Sarbanes Oxely being bull$#@!. I was the only one in my accounting classes to stand up to these professors who worshiped Sarbanes Oxely, and told them all Sarbanes Oxely does is make it more costly to do business. It has no value whatsoever.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by tttppp View Post
    You don't need regulations to reduce pollution and other problems like that. What I suggest is to remove most regulations and put in a system that makes companies income taxes conditional based on how well they treat society. For example, if they don't pollute at all, they would pay no taxes. If they polluted a lot, they would pay most of their cash earnings in taxes. This system would obviously be expanded into other areas outside pollution as well. Pretty much anything you think is important for a company to do, you can have that in the system too.
    Well they do some of that, for example car ownership is insane. It's 100% taxed duty to buy a car. So a $50K car in USA is $100K. Plus gas is $8.5/gallon. Plus to renew your vehicle annual cost an arm and a leg instead of the $40-$70 in many USA states. But it's not enough, I think it's more the buses, there are tons of tons of buses everywhere. They should implement something similar to your proposal for bus companies and other transport related industries.

    There's not much factory related pollution anymore, those all left HK a while ago.


    Ya SOX is the worst thing on the planet.

    #1 It's so useless, because whatever they are trying to prevent can be done in a completely different way anyway, so it created absolutely no security or protection of any kind.
    #2. The time WASTED showing auditors around and going through all the tons and tons of extra documentation to make them happy COMPLETELY wasted productivity.
    #3. It actually creates MAJOR inefficiencies in the workplace. While preventing me from doing something, it actually prevented me from doing my job. It was ridiculous.

    I think back to the hours dedicated to SOX of our staff, and then of auditors time, I used to look back and think, "What a friggin shame how many resources are being pissed away at something so useless"

    #4 Worst of all....Creativity Loss

    You are an entrepreneur. You have the newest and latest idea to change the marketplace. You want to establish a company, eventually go public and turn this into the next greatest thing. THEN GET OUT OF TOWN!!! Because SOX will suck all the creative juices out of you and put you in your tracks.

    I watched some amazing companies with great ideas and their vision was they could grow to a certain level, but to really take off they would need to go public. Then things stalled when these entrepreneur's got SOX thrown in their face, and the tasks and regulations required to become a public company were SO BURDENSOME!!! It was like seeing their momentum crawled and realizing they made a poor business decision in starting their company in the US.

    The sad thing is, we can't even estimate the cost of lost IPO's and lost business and creativity in the US.
    Last edited by Mani; 05-08-2012 at 02:12 AM.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by shemdogg View Post
    blame the pollution on shenzhen
    That's what everybody told me at first...It's just Shenzhen factories, Southern Wind Gusts and all that...but truth is, the city is pumping out the pollution even without any factories left.

  8. #7
    This is my idea that I have been suggesting since 911:

    I noticed that when 911 happened that the sky got very blue and the air seemed very sweet I know it was because the planes were not flying. So my suggestion is to have a no fly or drive day once a year to reduce pollution. I bet it could work in Hong Kong. If people saw how blue the sky really is they would be more considerate of the problem. It is a very simple solution and I know it would help a lot but convincing governments and people of it is complex and it would put probably put a damper on the cap and trade thing and that would be the real problem.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Mani View Post
    Well they do some of that, for example car ownership is insane. It's 100% taxed duty to buy a car. So a $50K car in USA is $100K. Plus gas is $8.5/gallon. Plus to renew your vehicle annual cost an arm and a leg instead of the $40-$70 in many USA states. But it's not enough, I think it's more the buses, there are tons of tons of buses everywhere. They should implement something similar to your proposal for bus companies and other transport related industries.

    There's not much factory related pollution anymore, those all left HK a while ago.


    Ya SOX is the worst thing on the planet.

    #1 It's so useless, because whatever they are trying to prevent can be done in a completely different way anyway, so it created absolutely no security or protection of any kind.
    #2. The time WASTED showing auditors around and going through all the tons and tons of extra documentation to make them happy COMPLETELY wasted productivity.
    #3. It actually creates MAJOR inefficiencies in the workplace. While preventing me from doing something, it actually prevented me from doing my job. It was ridiculous.

    I think back to the hours dedicated to SOX of our staff, and then of auditors time, I used to look back and think, "What a friggin shame how many resources are being pissed away at something so useless"

    #4 Worst of all....Creativity Loss

    You are an entrepreneur. You have the newest and latest idea to change the marketplace. You want to establish a company, eventually go public and turn this into the next greatest thing. THEN GET OUT OF TOWN!!! Because SOX will suck all the creative juices out of you and put you in your tracks.

    I watched some amazing companies with great ideas and their vision was they could grow to a certain level, but to really take off they would need to go public. Then things stalled when these entrepreneur's got SOX thrown in their face, and the tasks and regulations required to become a public company were SO BURDENSOME!!! It was like seeing their momentum crawled and realizing they made a poor business decision in starting their company in the US.

    The sad thing is, we can't even estimate the cost of lost IPO's and lost business and creativity in the US.
    My system would be much better run than whatever they are doing with cars now. I'm not sure what the point is of those taxes you illustrated.

    I was an auditor, so I saw how stupid and pointless SOX is from our perspective. Unfortunately I'm about the only auditor who realized what we were doing was not adding any value. These frauds that we have seen have nothing to do with a lack of internal controls. It all comes down to a top executive making a conscious decision to scam people.

    From the perspective of an entrepreneur, I would never design a company with all the bull$#@! controls that SOX wants you to have. Their procedures are so overly complex and have nothing to do with running a business.



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