Articles: Government intervention

A manifesto for Hong Kong
If you're going to be Chief Executive and you don't have a manifesto or any policy expertise beyond Security, Webb-site is here to help! (13-Apr-2022)
Webb on "Backchat" re the Budget
RTHK, 24-Feb-2022
Taster: isn't it amazing that the HK Govt couldn't find housing for people in cage-homes and sub-divided apartments for years, but can now build tens of thousands of isolation units in a couple of months?
Employment Support Scheme: the final outcome
After information requests by Webb-site, we reveal that HK's largest ever corporate handout went over-budget by about HK$10bn to a final tally of HK$90.5bn (US$11.6bn) plus costs. We produce a final list of approved claims. (13-Feb-2022)
Webb on "Backchat" re the Policy Address
RTHK, 7-Oct-2021
URA ready to build subsidised flats, but needs land to move faster, chairman saysL(CSFR)O
South China Morning Post, 6-Sep-2021
2 words, C.K.: "mission creep". URA's mission is in its name: Urban Renewal, not developing vacant land. Private sector can do that. Indeed, since 1999 with the Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance, the private sector can do urban renewal too, and the URA has outlived its utility. Shut it down and let the market determine how much to pay to consolidate old buildings, buy out the minorities and redevelop.
Webb on "Backchat" re China's 5-year plan 2021-2025
RTHK, 24-Aug-2021
Webb on "Backchat" re tourism and (second half) the future of authoritarian HK
RTHK, 16-Jul-2021
The discussion took a surprising turn…
Webb on "Backchat" re consumption vouchers
RTHK, 5-Jul-2021
Carrie Lam, Broadcaster-in-Chief
Contradicting a 2018 statement to LegCo, the HK Govt is now in the TV distribution business, removing competition and exclusivity by buying the Tokyo Olympics with your tax dollars and sublicensing them for free, risking a thinning-out of coverage. What next? (11-May-2021)
SFC launches Govt welfare scheme for property tycoons
Well, not all tycoons, only larger ones. (10-May-2021)
The Budget and HK's Road to Serfdom
The so-called "Consumption Voucher" will probably become another cash handout, a total of HK$108bn over 2 years - but that's not the point. HK's budget has long since deviated from the Basic Law requirement to keep the budget in line with Gross Domestic Product over time, having expanded by over a quarter since the 1997 Handover. HK is becoming a tax-and-spend interventionist economy, departing from the free-market principles at the root of its success. (26-Feb-2021)
ESS Revealed
As part of our push for open data, Webb-site tonight publishes the first detailed analysis of approved claims under the so-called "Employment Support Scheme", including league tables of the top 5,000 recipients and a search function for all recipients. (13-Dec-2020)
COVID-19: were the lockdowns worth the socio-economic cost? Video replay
These are the slides from a "Webbinar" with David Webb hosted by Exeter College, Oxford University, this evening. As vaccines draw near, the debate on the global policy responses to the pandemic should begin. (4-Dec-2020)
Government misled LegCo over COVID-19 broker handout
Applying to the Finance Committee, the Government made claims which it knew or should have known were false and misleading. It was either lying or reckless. Webb-site tells you the truth. (1-May-2020)
HK employers must eat this free lunch
An economically illiterate leadership has decided to spray HK$80bn at HK's economy, benefitting employers who had no intention of making lay-offs, by paying the firms up to HK$54k per job. Some firms have even prospered during COVID-19. It's a wasteful way to return hoarded reserves to the economy, but all companies now have a legal duty to shareholders to eat this free lunch. They should resist any Government pressure to not collect it. (9-Apr-2020)
Webb on "Backchat" re HK budget
RTHK, 28-Feb-2020
U.S. may order funds to dump Chinese stocks, activist Webb saysThe Trump Dump
Bloomberg, 17-Jun-2019
The Trump Dump: war-gaming the next move against China
The US Administration has so far focused entirely on the trade account, but when the potential for tariffs is exhausted, if not sooner, Trump may start to wonder why US funds have hundreds of billions of dollars invested in stocks and bonds of Chinese state-backed companies, and use OFAC powers to order them to divest. (2-Jun-2019)
Freedom and the future of China: Webb's talk at HKU on 30-Oct-2018 (video)Text of speech
YouTube, 29-Nov-2018
Freedom and the future of China
This is the text of a High Table dinner speech delivered by Webb-site founder David Webb to the students of Chi Sun College, University of Hong Kong, this evening. Hyperlinks have been added. (30-Oct-2018)
Webb on "Backchat" re Policy Address
RTHK, 11-Oct-2018
HK Government invasion of the housing market
HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam has ended her first year with a new set of interventions, building on the crumbling foundations of her predecessors. It's time for a major policy rethink. A government's role is to ensure that people have a home, not that they own one. And the government doesn't need to own homes either. (2-Jul-2018)
Webb on "Backchat" re white elephants
RTHK, 23-Jun-2018
DAB wants public money to help private property owners to maintain their buildings.HAD Building Management
RTHK, 18-May-2018
Why should property owners get a hand-out? Those who own property should maintain it. If they have no cash, they can either sell it and rent somewhere else, or get a mortgage or (if elderly) a reverse mortgage. If they lack an Owners' Corporation for the building, the Home Affairs Department will help them set one up.
Carrie Lam's latest assault on free markets
The Government is threatening to broaden rather than repeal a restriction on the resale of event tickets in HK, a restriction which is probably unconstitutional anyway. This runs against the interests of event organisers and performers who benefit from the secondary market as we explain. It also runs against the broader public interest in consumer choice. Let the market function, and repeal section 6 of the POPE Ordinance. What next - a restriction on reselling wine or IPO shares for a profit? (17-Apr-2018)
Solving the MPF-LSP offset problem, again
The HK Government fails to identify the obvious solution and instead pursues a doomed approach of perpetuating MPF plus LSP. That will either result in taxpayers fully funding a windfall to existing employees or the Government losing a judicial review for overriding the implied terms of existing employment contracts and violating employers' legitimate expectation of not having to pay twice. (30-Mar-2018)
Tight laws urged as touts corner Dayo Wong tickets
RTHK, 28-Mar-2018
What next - a ban on reselling shares for a profit after an IPO? The existing law against profiting from reselling tickets for events at private venues should be scrapped. Event organisers can personalise tickets if they want, preventing transfer and reducing value by removing that option. Otherwise, let the free market work.
Rebuilding free markets in HK
These slides are from a presentation by David Webb today, on how HK's free markets have eroded during the 20 years since the Handover, and what HK can do to recover its dynamism. (16-Jun-2017)
Webb on "Backchat" re annuities, the Mortgage Corp and MPF
RTHK, 12-Apr-2017
Webb on "Backchat" re Government intervention and red tape
RTHK, 15-Mar-2017
Govt to designate cinema sites in next land sale
RTHK, 13-Mar-2017
Because of course, in its infallible and infinite wisdom, the Government knows how many cinemas there should be and where to put them, and the market doesn't. If this isn't central planning, then what is? What has become of HK's market economy?
Ticket markets and Rugby Sevens finances
Put down your beer jug and take a look at two inter-related problems: the almost non-existent secondary market for event tickets in HK due to an anti-free-market law, and the finances of the Rugby Sevens, which is hoarding cash, underpaying for the HK Stadium, and expecting taxpayers to build another one for at least HK$33.5bn. (10-Apr-2016)
Hilda Li Chung Yan & Kevin Patrick Mann v HSBC
HK Court of Appeal, 12-Nov-2015
HSBC wins HK$92,770 as the costs of its application for security for costs.
CreateHK launches taxpayer subsidies for uncommercial films
HK Government, 9-Nov-2015
Another nail in HK's free market coffin.
Hilda Li Chung Yan & Kevin Patrick Mann v HSBC
HK Court of Appeal, 16-Oct-2015
The two are appealing against bankruptcy orders and must post HK$80,000 of security for costs each.
HK Government launches Fashion Advisory Group (FAG)
HK Government, 13-Jul-2015
Yes, really, that's the unfortunate acronym, or to use its longer name, the "Advisory Group on Implementation of Fashion Initiatives" - because apparently the Government has no dress sense. And who is chairing this thing? Trust Victor Lo Chung Wing, GBS, JP, the best-dressed head of a battery and electronics manufacturer you are ever likely to meet.
Bankruptcy of Kevin Patrick Mann & Hilda Li Chung Yan
HK Court of First Instance, 24-Mar-2015
This is about the former Dymocks book shop in Prince's Building, operated by Manhattan (Asia) Ltd and funded by an HSBC bank loan guaranteed by the Government, so taxpayers will likely end up with the bill. Capitalism with HK characteristics.
No happy endings in movie investmentsOur submission in 2007
HK Standard, 15-Nov-2012
We told you so! Like all bad movies, the ending was predictable. If these movies were commercially viable then they would find private-sector funding without taxpayer support. Webb-site opposed the Film Development Fund in a submission and appearance in LegCo in 2007.
Audit Commission report on Government's financial support to film industry
HK Government, 14-Nov-2012
The report is dated 26-Oct-2012 but was published on 14-Nov-2012.
Webb on "Backchat" re government intervention
RTHK, 13-Apr-2012
Donald decrees: HKEx will move
A little-noticed paragraph of the recent Policy Address dictates that HKEx will move to the offices to be developed on the site of the West Wing of the Central Government Offices. What does this say about the Government's attitude to HKEx? (14-Nov-2011)
Webb on "Backchat" re Home Ownership Scheme, transport subsidies
RTHK, 14-Oct-2011
Taxpayers to help farmers affected by Typhoon Nesat
HK Government, 30-Sep-2011
Who needs insurance when the Government compensates you for typhoon damage? Perhaps the Government should also underwrite broken windows in flats and offices too.
Prepared remarks of David Webb appearing in LegCo on Special Stamp Duty
Hong Kong should halt new property stamp duty, let bubble burst, Webb says
Bloomberg, 4-Jan-2011
Minimum wage will reduce some incomes
The road to intervention is paved with unintended consequences. We look at the conflict between the Minimum Wage and the MPF, resulting in some workers receiving less take-home pay and others having very little work incentive beyond 178.5 paid hours per month. We propose adjustments to the MPF threshold and contribution basis for low-income workers to address this. (2-Jan-2011)
LegCo invites submissions on Special Stamp Duty
HK Legislative Council, 21-Dec-2010
Submit your views to LegCo! David Webb will attend the meeting on 4-Jan at 4.30pm.
Webb-site submission to LegCo on Special Stamp Duty
HK Legislative Council, 14-Dec-2010
Webb on "Backchat" debating Special Stamp Duty with Government
RTHK, 6-Dec-2010
Stamp Duty (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2010
HK Gazette, 3-Dec-2010
Stamp Duty (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2010 to be gazetted this Friday
HK Government, 1-Dec-2010
Government criticises Stamp Duty proposal
In a case of policy schizophrenia, the Government said a special stamp duty would be unfair, cause additional hardship to those in financial difficulties, and amount to double taxation. Then they proposed it anyway, based on a bunch of selective, deceptive and alarmist statistics, which we dissect. Legislators should kill this proposal or at least insert a sunset clause so that it expires with Donald Tsang's office. Exceptional times do not call for irrational measures. (26-Nov-2010)
Webb on "Backchat" re special stamp duty and mortgage limits
RTHK, 23-Nov-2010
Webb on "Backchat" re HK economy
RTHK, 6-Sep-2010
PCPD details Cyberport dispute with government
Company announcement, 23-May-2010
Comment: readers will recall we criticised this interventionist property project, announced by Donald Tsang in his 1999 budget and awarded to Richard Li without tender. Now it turns out that they left a loophole in the definition of "deficit" in the agreements - PCPD says it excludes depreciation, while the Government says it doesn't. The difference: about HK$1.2bn of taxpayer's money.
Webb on "Backchat" re HK Disney debt restructuring
RTHK, 2-Jul-2009
Stop the .HK Takeover issues an urgent appeal to members of Hong Kong Internet Registration Corp, to attend the EGM on Saturday morning and prevent the unjustified Government takeover of the dot-HK domain registry. If User members vote to slash their own board representation, they will be surrendering democracy and opening the registry to potential political interference. (19-Aug-2008)
Government plans Food Adjustment Mechanism has learned of HK Government plans to address public concerns over food prices with a Food Adjustment Mechanism or FAM, setting prices annually in line with inflation. It also plans to buy shares in the two major supermarket chains to encourage the development of Islamic supermarkets and possible future mergers between the chains. (13-Sep-2007)
Intervention Returns
We look at the HK Government's surprise disclosure of 5.9% of HKEx, where it might go next, and how it quietly scrapped a 5% benchmark on the Exchange Fund weighting in HK stocks, leaving it as the 2nd-biggest investor after the mainland Government. With about HK$1 trillion of surplus liquid assets, whatever happened to Donald Tsang's "big market, small government"? We call on the Government to return its surplus capital to the people with a 10-year program of deliberate budgeted deficits. (10-Sep-2007)
HK Government intervenes in journalism
Was overseas coverage of HK's Handover anniversary too much and too positive? exposes the Hong Kong Government's junket journalism programme, spending taxpayers' money flying journalists here, putting them up in 5-star hotels, and biasing the coverage of HK affairs. (14-Jul-2007)
Submission to LegCo on Movie Fund editor David Webb has made the following submission to the Legislative Council's Information and Technology Broadcast Panel for its meeting on 17-Apr-07, incorporating the results of our opinion poll. (10-Apr-2007)
Lights, camera...budget!
We look at the recent history of HK Government intervention in the movie industry, the land grants involved, and the proposal to throw HK$300m of public money into private movie production. We urge LegCo to cut this scene from Hong Kong's script. Tell them what you think in our opinion poll. (9-Mar-2007)
Webb on "Backchat" re Action Agenda on Five Year Plan
RTHK, 16-Jan-2007
Submission to the Legislative Council Panel on Manpower regarding Commissions for Labour
The HK Government seeks to increase its intervention in the private contract between providers and purchasers of labour services, by imposing requirements to include commissions in holiday pay. In a submission to the Legco Panel on Manpower, we urge the Government to step back and let the free market function. (27-Sep-2006)
Webb on "Backchat" re Government Intervention
RTHK, 20-Sep-2006
Intervention in the Labour Market
We examine HK legislators' calls for a statutory minimum wage and maximum working hours, and the Government's move to put public bodies on this path resulting from a pact between Donald Tsang and the unions during his nomination campaign. He was making promises with your money. We also look at the proposed "1+1" labour importation scheme - a sop to politically-connected textile families, the job-for-life labour contracts of the civil service, statutory Severance and Long Service Payments, and the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund. (7-Oct-2005)
Disneyland Through the Looking Glass
We look at the governance and financial aspects of Hong Kong International Theme Parks Ltd, better known as Hong Kong Disneyland. We call on the Government to publish the company's accounts, the related agreements, and the identities of the independent directors it said would be appointed. And we ask, was this a good use of 280 hectares of land, and why was there no tender for the project? (23-Sep-2005)
Government Blocks Free Market in Tickets
Imagine a securities law which allows IPOs but bans share-trading above the IPO price. That, in a nutshell, is a description of the law on the market for entertainment tickets in Hong Kong. We call on the Government to stop interfering in private contract and wasting law-enforcement resources, and allow the resale of tickets at free market prices. Legalising ticket trading would create new employment, increase profits tax revenue and help set ticket prices in the primary market. (7-Sep-2005)
Hong Kong's Own Goal
It's a goal! No, we're not talking about the consolation goal that Brazil let in at the end of a 7-1 thrashing of Hong Kong, but the own-goal scored by the HKFA in its ticketing strategy. We look at the economics of event pricing and suggest a better, market-driven approach to ticket sales, which should reduce the amount of public subsidies in HK sports and arts. These subsidies are in direct conflict with HK's free-market philosophy. (13-Feb-2005)
Listing Chaos
We review a chaotic month on the Government policy front in general and the HKEx in particular, and look at the broader issues surrounding the current proposals, or rather the lack of them. Merging two issuer-dominated Listing Committees together will not address the needs of investors, while the Government ducks the real problem of having a for-profit toothless regulator rather than SFC regulation and statutory backing for the Listing Rules. (28-Jul-2002)
TraHK Suitable?
Now for the 10-billion dollar question - the public offer closes at 12 noon tomorrow. Should you buy the Tracker Fund of Hong Kong? We give you our considered view. (3-Nov-1999)
TraHK on Tap
We explain in detail how the Tap mechanism will draw index shares from the Government's holdings when the market moves upwards, dampening the upside on the market. At the current rate, we expect HK$24bn of tap next year. We also look at the redemption and subscription mechanism and its likely effect on the trading prices of the TraHK. Finally, we demonstrate how the HSI has been boosted relative to the rest of the market by the Government's intervention. (1-Nov-1999)
Circular TraHK
In an extraordinary move, the Government has said that its Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority will invest part of its operating funds and compensation fund in the TraHK. This Government's blatant attempt to underwrite its own issue represents the next step on a slippery slope of Government fiddling with the markets. Who will invest next - the Airport Authority, Water Authority, or Hongkong Post? (28-Oct-1999)
On TraHK
The prospectus for the Tracker Fund is now out and we've read it. In this article we look at the complexities of how and when the discount and pricing will be fixed, the odd lots created by the loyalty bonus, and make an early assessment of the potential public demand. (25-Oct-1999)
EFIL Announces Sale Plans
The Government has announced plans to sell off its surplus equity holdings as a unit trust, which we recommended in February. The plan is short on detail and fails to commit to a scheduled disposal programme, instead preferring to time the launch based on "prevailing market conditions". Has the motive behind the intervention changed from protecting the currency to one of maximising profit? At current prices, we calculate that the Exchange Fund will have to sell HK$177bn of shares, or 79% of its holdings, to reduce its portfolio to the target 5% weighting. (21-Jun-1999)
Cyber Villas by the Sea
A critical analysis of the Government's proposed joint venture property development with Pacific Century Group. The author finds the project space is 75% residential. (22-Mar-1999)
EFIL comes to LIFE
In recent days Exchange Fund Investment Limited, the HKMA's in-house investment adviser, has been asking a short-list of potential advisers what should be done with the HK$160 billion portfolio acquired in last August's intervention. In this article, we present our solution. (8-Feb-1999)
Government Stock Market Intervention
A commentary on the Hong Kong government's controversial intervention in the local stock market, which began on 14-Aug-98. This article covers our various activities in this area in 1998-1999. was launched in Nov-1998. (31-Jan-1999)
Investor urges prosecution of Government
South China Morning Post, 16-Nov-1998
This article is from the South China Morning Post, 16-Nov-1998, regarding our correspondence with the SFC on the Government's market intervention.
Secrecy is the enemy of free-market philosophy
This letter, published in the South China Morning Post on 4-Sep-1998, estimated that the government had spent HK$120bn on its intervention. Later, on 26-Oct-98, the Government finally disclosed its holdings and that it had spent $118bn. (4-Sep-1998)
The Client that got away
A light-hearted look at the events of Summer 1998. (28-Aug-1998)
Yam rejects accusations of creating false market through manipulationOur letter
South China Morning Post, 20-Aug-1998
An article from the South China Morning Post regarding our letter of the same date.
Our letter on the Government's market intervention
This letter was published in the South China Morning Post on 20-Aug-1998. (20-Aug-1998)

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