| Point of VIEW.
A purely analytical perception...
FIRST LET ME TEST THE "FENG SHUI"
For a truly Western Style economy such as Hong Kongs, the people are zealots though when it comes to "feng shui", the four thousand year old art of predicting the future . Apparently everyone in the former colony is on the lookout for good karma, but according to those revered in the practice of feng shui, things have happened exactly the way they had been predicted. Even Tung Chee-hwa was such a fervent advocate of the science that he would not move into the British Governors home claiming that it had bad feng shui. As a matter of fact he would not move anywhere until his own expert picked a place that had good karma.
The banks in Hong Kong regularly issue feng shui reports and as an example, Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia issued the following just about the time when the British turned the colony over to China, "People will begin to express their dissatisfaction with the continued deterioration in the local economy and living standards after the hand over." With so much riding on these predictions, people have been asking when will things get better and almost to a man, the feng shui has predicted that when the new airport opens, things are sure to improve.
FLYING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS
When things looked like they couldnt get worse because everything bad that could happen already did, a new disaster struck. With great fanfare Hong Kong opened its new airport, the purported, eighth wonder of the world located, on reclaimed land at Chek Lap. So sure were the locals that the new airport would operate as advertised that they took the unusually steps of removing the backup systems which normally would have been kept in place. Effectively, Hong Kong virtually closed the airport that had served them well for so many years and opened a new one simultaneously, the end result became a logistical nightmare.
Officials were so sure that they had covered every eventuality that it was not necessary to take the normal precautions of converting flights gradually over a shakedown period to make sure that there were no glitches in the system. Well, they were wrong, were they wrong. The new computer just plain developed "bugs" and wouldnt cooperate no matter what technicians tried to do. Cargo handling became impossible and goods could not be moved out or into the new $20 billion facility. Escalators didnt work, toilets were either backed up or in a constant state of overflowing and information displays seemed to be written in Esperanto. This all had the compounded effect of creating interminable flight delays.
Worse yet, an arriving Cathay Pacific Airways plane from France fell victim to a malfunctioning automatic guidance docking system and rammed into an air-bridge when it couldnt stop in time. Officials became hysterical over the event and canceled the systems use, making it available only manually. This action further backed up the long line of planes waiting to take off and land. It then turned out that the foundation work for the airports railroad was substantially inferior to the specifications and before you could blink an eye, four people were arrested and officials were busily out testing the concrete to see if the train was going to fall into the water. Throwing oil on a smoldering fire occurred when tour operators, looking at the airport as a way to make some money sold tickets to the populous for an in depth review of the facility and they turned out by the thousands straining what little was left of the airports amenities beyond reproach.
Much of the cargo that goes in and out of Hong Kong is living, such as live seafood, fresh cut flowers and bull frogs, had to be sent back to the old airport for handling and in the ordeal, much was lost. The passengers fared almost as badly as the order of the day became "hurry up and wait" as long lines appeared everywhere as 80,000 people wondered what to do next. As for the future, the airports chief, Anthony Charter seemingly did not check his "feng shui" and stated, "operations were likely to suffer for the foreseeable future and that imports were likely to face 24-hour delays". Airports in Macao, Shenzhen and other Southern China were asked to help with the arrivals and for the moment, bad karma abounds.
Naturally bureaucrats were searching furtively for a fall guy and Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals LTD (HACTL) obliged by opening their mouths. You see, HACTL is the company that handles 80 percent of the air cargo going in and out of the former colony. HACTL, after things started going wrong at the airport, reasonably instituted a ban on almost all inbound and outbound air freight traffic and has since indicated that full service could not be restored until at least mid-August, and then, only by reopening the old airport for traffic again. Upon hearing the news, Chau Tak-hay, the Secretary for Trade and Industry stated, "The company should be reprimanded. Im saying it without reservation, I am very angry, As a citizen of Hong Kong, I feel like every other citizen, very disappointed." And we can understand where Chau is coming from, Hong Kong handles air cargo valued at HK$40 billion per month and you dont think that this kind of slowdown isnt going to cause a real financial problem for a place that already had its hands full, you are crazy.
Many of the problems could be chalked up to Hong Kongs history of getting everything right for so long that the bureaucrats in charge thought they were be bullet proof. In reality what they did was push the airports envelope by opening it to early, in the first instance to accommodate the one-year anniversary of Chinas takeover of the former British Colony and in the second, for Clintons visit to the Pacific Rim. Hong Kong is being to show some fraying around the edges.
DOING THE UNTHINKABLE
With the news from all corners going from bad to worse, the Hong Kong Government couldn't take it anymore and took a wad of the Colony's reserves and sunk them into the stock market. We are not talking about nickels and dimes here, were are talking about billions of dollars or hard currency reserves. Albert Ho, in speaking for the Democratic Party put it best when he said that the move was "unwise and unrealistic to attempt to manipulate the market, Hong Kong is a free market and speculation is a part of life."
The Hong Kong Government defended its action indicating that currency speculators were spreading vicious rumors about the Colony's economic state of affairs, and indicated that in order to put a stop to the matter once and for all, the government would purchase shares until the cows in order to punish the perpetrators of these actions. However, unemployment figures released almost simultaneously showed that people out of work rose to historic highs. A public opinion poll also released at the same time showed that peoples patience with the new regime was fraying and that confidence had sunk to a new low since China began its administration.
Copyrighted Worldwide ©1997 Chapman Spira & Carson,