Generation 40s – 四十世代

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「先通過、後檢討」的謬誤

明報
2012-05-30
論壇
馬嶽

候任政府推銷架構重組,愈來愈像去年替補機制的發展。政府用牽強的理由堅拒作公眾諮詢,原因應該很簡單:政府沒有很強的理據說服公眾,與其給時間反對力量凝聚,不如「快刀斬亂麻」了。殊不知這種不講決策理性的態度,正最惹公眾反感,令更多人反對政府建議。

候任政府最近主打的論據,叫做「先通過、後檢討」,或者「先通過、後監察」,並且有主要親梁報章為其鳴鑼開道。這反映了候任政府已經放棄了用理性說服議員和公眾,只會說「畀個機會」,「買鰦玩具畀我先啦,我會乖鮁啦」,到了反智的地步。

坦白說,如果這樣的邏輯都可以成立,那麼以後政府所有的政策諮議都不用做了。政府推出任何政策,面對公眾和議員質疑,政府有起碼的責任說服公眾和議員新政策建議是好的,或者至少是「利多於弊」,如果做不到這步,政策便不應通過。面對公眾和議員各項的質疑和批評,無力說服反對聲音時,說「你先讓我通過嘛,然後再檢討和監察嘛」,完全不是負責任的態度。大家擔心23條立法侵犯人權自由,可以先通過,然後再檢討有沒有侵犯人權自由嘛。大家擔心銷售稅影響民生,可以先通過徵收幾年,然後再檢討嘛。

很多政府措施,錯誤推出了要「撥亂反正」非常困難,特別現在立法會面對的是「增設職位」的建議。官僚總有自我膨脹的傾向,最擅長合理化自身的存在,增加了編制後要再削減非常困難。2008年增設副局長和政治助理以來,公眾評價不高,但我們見不到政府會建議削減有關職位,今次反而建議增加。現在通過增加編制,兩三年後再檢討,要重新削減多餘職位的機會近乎零。

正因為公共開支易加難減,香港自殖民年代開始,在行政主導體制下賦予立法機關較大的財政監察權,包括增加人事編制時的逐項審批權。香港憲制設計原則並不賦予立法機關很大政策影響力,但財政監察一直是其重點功能之一,用以落實《基本法》中強調的「審慎理財」「量入為出」的原則。立法會議員謹慎使用有關權力,其實符合《基本法》的重要精神。

把政策的理性基礎全都搞掉

當然,如果特區政府以後都採用這個決策邏輯,也可能不是壞事,甚至對推動社會改革有極大幫助。民間團體有任何政策倡議,政府和建制團體有任何懷疑,都可以叫他們「先通過、後監察」呀!大家擔心全民退休保障會造成沉重經濟負擔,不要怕,「先通過、後檢討」嘛!最低工資35元絕對不是問題,政府和商界如果擔心,可以「先通過、後檢討」。這個原則發揚光大後,我相信政府和立法會以後都不會找到任何充分的理據,去反對任何政策通過。中央和商界為什麼反對全面普選和取消功能組別?應該先全面普選,再檢討監察嘛!!

候任政府現在的做法和去年林瑞麟硬銷替補機制一樣,方案通過是一項政治任務,如果主要的支持論據被反對者駁斥,便「信手拈來」的堆砌另一些理由,結果把政策的理性基礎全都搞掉。就像傳聞中的文化局長。候任政府最初推銷新分拆出來的兩個局時,說要找業界的人當局長,可以「專事專辦」,但當因各種政治原因要用許曉暉當局長,被文化界質疑她沒有業界背景、不熟文化政策時,羅范椒芬便說「其實任何人當局長,都要團隊互補」。這個說法,說穿了是「阿茂阿壽都可以當局長」,因為有「團隊互補」嘛。

2002年政府推行問責制時,其中一項理據是可以從政府外找界別專才任高官。到了曾蔭權年代,不大找外間專才任問責高官,多以政務官背景的出任。到了現在倒退至沒有業界專業知識、也沒有政務官的行政經驗也可以出任局長。這個制度難道有這麼神,任何人出任高官都可以勝任?

當政治動機凌駕政策理性後,大家再用政策理性的標準來分析政府的某些「理據」,便會覺得非常反智。在不能以理性說服公眾後,政府便只能繼續透過中介組織或公司找各種各樣的臨時演員來支持通過方案(這其實可不可以也算是扶助了文化事業呢?),置持份者真正的意見於不顧,回到董建華年代的老路上。未來5年的管治手法,可思過半矣。


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Europe in denial over debt

South China Morning Post
Insight
2012-05-18

Andy Xie says the will-it-or-won’t-it Greek drama playing out on the global economic stage overshadows the euro zone’s real problem – a refusal to take the pain that’s necessary to reinvigorate growth

Election results this month in France and Greece are seen as a vote against austerity. Many economists are now saying: “I told you so”. Their own prescription is to stimulate growth. But while austerity by itself hasn’t worked, increasing fiscal spending alone to stimulate growth will lead to a worse outcome. If European governments do adopt this so-called pro-growth policy, it will plunge Europe into greater financial turmoil and trigger another global recession.

Globalisation has magnified the consequences of national strengths and weaknesses. European strength in consumer brands is a golden asset. But many, if not most, European businesses have no distinct advantages and must engage in price competition. Obviously, Europe has a high cost structure and cannot win through price competition. It must shift resources from weak to strong industries. That requires regulatory and labour flexibility that many European countries, especially the ones in trouble, don’t have.

Globalisation has also raised the cost of inputs like energy and decreased the value of manufactured goods in general . Europe should recognise that, if it fails to boost its competitiveness, it must accept lower living standards – in other words, it must work more or spend less. But, supported by a global credit bubble, most European countries did not make that choice and defended their lifestyle by running up national debt. Europe must see that the crisis is about the future, not just the past.

For example, Germany is in good shape because it made the adjustment years ago, dumping uncompetitive industries and shifting resources to businesses like automobiles and precision equipment. It also cut labour costs and social overheads.

If countries like France or Italy switch from austerity to fiscal stimulus, the bond market will panic; funding unsustainable growth just digs a deeper hole for bond investors. The European Central Bank can play saviour by increasing its asset purchases, but that just means printing money to finance spending. The euro may collapse as investors run for the exit.

Manipulating demand alone doesn’t work for small economies at all. France, for example, accounts for just 4per cent of the global economy. It is far-fetched to believe that a demand kick from extra fiscal spending would lead the economy to snowball. In a world fully arbitraged by multinationals, no Keynesian policy can work as it did, whatever the size of the economy.

A stimulus is credible if European countries carry out reform to increase growth potential. If a credible growth plan is in place, financial markets would be willing to fund the short-term deficit increase. But a growth strategy based on demand stimulus alone won’t win over the market. To restore growth, it’s necessary to improve labour market flexibility.

The European labour market is trapped in a vicious cycle. Businesses are unwilling to hire because it is too costly to let anyone go. The resulting high unemployment rate increases worker insecurity, which drives workers to support laws that enhance job security but make employers less willing to hire.

Financial markets have become highly volatile over the European situation. Every episode of turbulence is accompanied by demands, recommendations or talk of bailouts. However, the financial pain stands in sharp contrast to the mild economic consequences. Gross domestic product for the euro zone dropped by 0.3per cent in the last quarter of 2011 and was flat in the first quarter of this year – very mild compared to what other countries experienced during a similar crisis. And it may not be good news.

East Asia suffered a debt crisis in 1998. Though the magnitude of the debt problem was much smaller than Europe’s today, several economies suffered a double-digit contraction because the people and businesses considered the crisis of their own making and cut back accordingly. This is why the region rebounded strongly a few years later and is now on sound financial footing.

The ongoing political backlash against such a mild economic contraction in Europe shows that voters are unwilling to hold themselves responsible for their country’s debts. This is a bad signal for bond investors.

Greece seems destined not to pay its foreign creditors. Analysts and policymakers often frame the Greek drama as if it’s about whether it will stay in the euro zone or leave. This isn’t the real issue. If it leaves, the euro will survive and may even become stronger with a weak member out. The real issue is whether Greece and the Greek people feel responsible for the nation’s debts. It appears that Greece does not intend to pay off its debt. There is little difference between Greece and Bernie Madoff.

Europe seems bent on solving the debt crisis in any way possible short of sacrifice by the people. It portends a worse future for Europe than Japan’s. Japanese people work hard and take responsibility for the nation’s debts; they are just poorly led. The difference will show eventually in currency strength. The Japanese yen has been strong over the past two decades despite a stagnant economy; the euro is likely to weaken over the next decade, as the ECB prints more and more money to support the troubled bond market. Investors in European assets will suffer a double blow – declining asset prices and declining currency value.

Europeans are still rich, enjoying per capita income of €28,000 (HK$276,000) in the euro zone, seven times China’s. It is morally reprehensible to demand that the global community bail out Europe. When Europe refuses to undertake structural reforms that can solve its problems, throwing good money from poor people after rich people’s bad money is indefensible.

In this regard, the International Monetary Fund should be removed from the equation. It is controlled by Europeans who would use the money from the global community to bail out themselves. The money that has gone to Greece is probably lost for good. Can it avoid a similar outcome in Italy and beyond?

Andy Xie is an independent economist


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新政府如何定位大學教育?

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A12 | 時事評論 | By 曹啟樂
2012-05-05

經常在不同大學排名榜名列前位的英國牛津和劍橋,在最新的英國大學排名榜「完全大學指南」(The Complete University Guide)中出現變化,劍橋佔首位,牛津給倫大政經學院追上,退至第三位,主因是牛津在九項指標中的一項、即畢業生出路(從事需要學士學歷職位的比率)有所不如,跌至79.8%,劍橋和倫大政經學院分別為84.4% 和87.8%。

在經濟不景、僱主招聘意欲不強的情況下,對傳統以文科為主的牛津較為不利,有近八成的就業率也算不差了。

英國今年首季失業率為8.4%,當中十六至二十四歲群組失業率更達22.5%,大學畢業後找不到工作,或只從事以往毋須學位的職位大有人在,因此也令人思考到大學的社會功能問題。

當然,香港情況不同,就業率長期偏高,工作人口中有專上程度的仍不多,大學畢業生就業大致沒有問題,只是薪金待遇不再屬天之驕子一輩;經歷過去幾年大學教育的擴展,其實畢業生已有一定的心理準備了。以教學界為例,一般新入行者即使大學畢業後再取得教育文憑,也會以合約教席、甚至教學助理方式受聘;隨着縮班殺校的趨勢,由合約制轉至常額的機會也將減低不少。那麼,有否須要強化大學與就業市場的配合呢?候任特首又如何看待這個問題?畢竟他的施政將影響未來數年的大學教育取向。

大學並非職業培訓

梁振英的政綱提到,教育是「為個人創造未來、為社會培育人才、為國家建設棟樑」,教育政策要讓學生「學有所成,學以致用」,而「教育不是開支,是對未來的投資」。

在個人與梁氏有限的接觸中,感到他對大學擴張學位有點保留,怕學生畢業後找不到相關工作,因此政綱中沒有具體談及增加學額的比率,比如說由現在的18% 增加至30%等等,只是較籠統地說「為高中畢業生開拓更廣闊的升學渠道,包括資助學生往內地院校升學,增加資助專上學額(包括學位和專業文憑課程)和私立大學學額」。

也許由於出身和經歷,梁氏重視學位的專業成分,學生畢業後能否參與專業或對口工作,所謂「學以致用」似是重點所在。

然而,大學教育的價值遠遠大於職業或專業的培訓,應該與文化的傳承和創新、整體人民生命質素的提升,以至社會、國家各方面的進步緊密聯繫,這亦是近年不同大學也都強調通過教育、思考訓練、跨科學習的原因。

以倫大政經學院為例,畢業生就業率高與其學科以專業(如法律、金融、政治等)為主有關,但對通識不會偏廢,要求每位學生修讀一個名為LSE 100的課程,就是學習以基本社會科學理論去理解實際社會的問題, 課程目標是了解事物的底蘊(understandingthe causes of things);這肯定不是狹義的專業培訓,而是適用於任何現代文明人類分析問題的基本要求,因此對「學以致用」的理解要寬闊些。

事實上,經濟的發展難以預測,要求大學學系、學位數目要與就業市場掛鈎是不切實際的;相反,假如畢業生具備共通能力,則在不同崗位上也可發揮所長。

同時,以「開支」或「投資」界定教育目標亦有不足,因為這會太着重實際效益,而缺乏宏觀視野。沿此思路,很多大學學系如哲學、歷史、人類學、文化研究等都要收縮,遑論擴展了。這不利於社會的多元化發展、下一代人文質素的改進。

大學擴展欲罷不能

總括而言,高中新學制讓全體學生可參與文憑試,已全面激發升讀大學的期望,以前是讀預科的三萬多人,現時是高中三的七萬多人,如果大學學位仍設定於適齡青年的18%,則遠遠落後於社會期望。可以說,大學學位的增加趨勢,是無法阻止的。

學生無法在本港升讀,必然想辦法在內地、台灣,以至外國升學。假如梁振英真的落實資助學生赴內地升學,以及擴充私立大學數目,大學生人數必以倍增。以今年為例,文憑試尚未考畢,已有學生獲台灣眾多私立大學取錄;內地六十三所大學的面試日程也在今個月進行;個別學校甚至與海外、台灣一些大學結盟,以推薦方式協助學生升讀大學。

特別是一些已達升大學的基本要求,即中英數通識達第三、三、二、二級,另加一個選修達二級的同學,以這個基本取錄線無法在本港升學,又或者其他學科表現不俗,但獨欠英文水平者,大多會離港升學。

未來本港的年輕人口,當中具備學位學歷者將會激增,這個趨勢不一定配合社會經濟發展,所謂學系與職業「錯配」定會出現,但相對於整體人民質素的提高,這點反而不太重要。

教育評議會執委
曹啟樂


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Nurturing Hong Kong’s art and culture

South China Morning Post
Insight
2012-05-24

Pedith Chan explores the role of government in cultural development and argues that, in Hong Kong, the right policies on education and research can nurture artists and create a society of art lovers

Cultural development typically goes hand in hand with economic and social transformation. Japan, for one, underwent rapid modernisation and Westernisation during the Meiji period to become Asia’s first modern nation. It was at that time that many cultural institutions were introduced and a number of cultural policies formulated. Through such enterprise, Japan successfully created a well-defined culture.

Yet, in Hong Kong, acclaimed as one of the most metropolitan cities in the world, cultural development has lagged behind its significant economic achievements. Thus, it has fallen behind other developed economies.

In this light, chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying’s promise to set up a culture bureau can be considered a great leap forward. Since his announcement, there has been much debate and discussion on the issue, particularly within the art community.

Before any decisions are made, the government should consider some important questions about the bureau: what is the government’s role in supporting art and culture as expressions of a democratic society? To what extent will the government affect the autonomy of the artistic and cultural fields? And how will the new bureau operate and be structured?

There’s no doubt that an effective cultural policy has the potential to promote a country’s cultural identity and foster creativity, whereas a dictatorial culture bureau can jeopardise artistic freedom. To identify the intended roles of the government in artistic creation, one could adopt sociological approaches to explore the functions, direction and mission of the future bureau.

In his influential book, Art Worlds, sociologist Howard Becker points out that “art worlds consist of all the people whose activities are necessary to the production of the characteristic works which that world, and perhaps others as well, define as art”. Suggesting that “art as a form of collective action” involves a number of people, Becker offers a broader perspective from which to view the art scene.

The success of an art world depends on the participation of a range of actors, such as government officials, artists, historians, critics, galleries, audience and the like. And by looking closely at the ecosystem of Hong Kong art through the lens of Becker’s theories, one soon discovers that some important ingredients of an art world are missing.

For instance, art education at the primary to tertiary levels has historically not been regarded as a top priority within the school curriculum. Consequently, Hong Kong’s lack of support for art education has inevitably resulted in a low level of cultural literacy and artistic competence among members of the public.

Furthermore, our ignorance of art and culture has diminished artists’ social status and undermined the important role of art and cultural activities in society. If the government is truly determined to establish Hong Kong as Asia’s cultural hub but fails to invest in cultivating an informed public and nurturing young artists, then it is not hard to predict that the establishment of a culture bureau and the abundant investment in cultural development will be in vain.

Another missing piece within the Hong Kong art world is research. The city has a long history of providing a free market for art. In the 1970s and 1980s, the prestigious auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s set up branches in Hong Kong, and the city has long been ranked by research company Artprice as one of the top five cities in terms of sales revenue.

However, although many contemporary Chinese artists have become well known in the international art scene via Hong Kong, only a handful of Hong Kong artists have benefited from the booming market here. Although more local artists are being promoted by local galleries, scholarly research on Hong Kong artists has not been conducted extensively. This lack of information is one factor that discourages collectors from buying local artwork.

In fact, Hong Kong has never taken advantage of the burgeoning art market to develop its economy and artistic reputation. Art can be a lucrative business with the potential to generate considerable growth in art-related ancillary services and professions, such as art lawyers, insurers and art-specific financial services firms. In the absence of comprehensive research on the art market and art industry, opportunity has so far passed the city by.

It is clear that one crucial player – the government – can put in place the parts of an art world that Hong Kong still lacks. In this regard, it should make plans with a broader vision to promote art and culture. Thus, the government should take responsibility for drafting an effective cultural policy, thereby creating a vibrant, diverse and productive cultural environment through discussions and collaboration with different governmental departments, cultural professionals and scholars.

A suitable leader of the new culture bureau would not only have a global vision but also – most importantly – profound knowledge of art, history and culture, as well as a thorough understanding of the operational logic and values of the Hong Kong art world itself.

Dr Pedith Chan is an assistant professor of cultural and heritage management at the City University of Hong Kong


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吾生有涯 欲望無涯

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C01 | 今日焦點 | 忽然文化 | By 占飛
2012-05-19

母親節過去了。坊間一片稱頌媽媽的讚歌,那些平時被抨擊的虎媽、怪獸媽媽都到了哪裏去呢?短短一代間,港媽由慈母變成虎媽,不單從父親手中奪去教育孩子的權力,兼且為「叻仔叻女」另立新的尺度及標準。

孔子的弟子只須學六藝,今天的孩子可能要學十六藝:兩文三語固然要流利,最好還通第三個語文(法文、德文之類);自少學鋼琴、小提琴,女的跳芭蕾,男的學武術;精通數理化,走遍歐美亞三大洲的先進國家,以廣見聞。孩子的求學之路由兩歲去playgroup開始,讀名牌幼稚園,小、中學入國際學校或Band 1名校,大學則牛劍哈選其一..虎媽如此安排周到,藉口當然是:今天的世界競爭激烈,孩子必須贏在起跑線上云云。

其實,虎媽所為,主要是滿足她自己的兩個欲望。第一,她潛意識要扮演上帝,務求孩子成為她膝下的「選民」,必得救贖。第二,她對孩子有過高期望。這不只是虎媽如此,基本上,所有發達社會的現代城市人,自覺也好,潛移默化也好,被「洗腦」也好,都對人生有過高期望。

直線進步

始作俑者,當然是十八世紀後,歐洲啟蒙運動帶來的「直線發展的進步歷史觀」。之前,從來沒有一個社會、宗教或哲學會相信歷史是進步的,人類生活必然一天天好起來。相反,大部分文化的「歷史觀」都認為:人世間苦多於樂。中國傳統便認為,亢龍必有悔,泰極會否來。西方也有句諺語:「上升的必會下降。」(Wh at goes up must come down.)可是,工業革命、科學、資本主義卻令人相信:理性、知識、科技、民主等會帶來永遠的發展,直線的進步,而且這是理所當然的。

社會可以、應該乃至必然會使人類免於匱乏,收入增加,福利及閒暇增多,行為文明,一代比一代更健康精壯,漂亮英俊、聰明秀慧..。

今天,要人回到「一簞食,一瓢飲,在陋巷」也「不改其樂」的生活,根本沒可能。青少年沒有智能手機,等於自我孤立。i 世代已漸漸不流行通電話、寫電郵或短訊,相約吃飯唱K等,全部通過面書或whatsapp,你沒有面書或whatsapp戶口,分分鐘不知道朋友間發生了什麼事,有什麼約會。你和隱居田園的陶淵明,幾無分別!

經 濟學家本應深刻的認識到資本主義經濟發展是循環的,繁榮之後便是不景、衰退,增長必帶來泡沫,泡沫爆破便有一段緊縮日子,如天要下雨一樣,這是無可避免的。遇到經濟不景及衰退,民怨上升,社會動盪,政治不穩,生活質素下降,痛苦增加。但在人人都普遍有過高期望時,沒有人會想到這些。

過高期望

這種普遍的過高期望,是資本主義的消費文化製造出來的,特別是先使未來錢的信用時代,有過高期望幾乎無可避免。當經濟發展倚重內部需求及內部消費,廣告、傳媒及其他普及文化不停的製造欲望,並煽動消費者去滿足他們的欲望,有欲望要滿足,人們才會拚命的賺錢,為此終身學習、不斷增值。現代城市人的生命,就像置身跑步機上,要不停跑動,才能留在原位,不至被擯出局。

撰文:占飛

現代癮君子

在物價相對穩定的年代,在通脹尚未張牙舞爪,隨時吃掉積蓄的年代,人們還可以期望一朝發達便不用工作,像六十年代的粵語片般,夢想「中了馬票、做了百萬富翁」便可隨心所欲過日子,像馬克思說的,早上狩獵、下午釣魚、黃昏牧牛,晚飯後當評論家。今時今日,無論你有多少錢,都未敢輕言退休,擺脫「學習──增值──工作──消費」的「無休止的追逐」(ratrace)。

在現代資本主義社會生活,人們免不了都變成「癮君子」(addicts)。消費文化製造出來的欲望,99%是追求快感,且不說吃、喝等純感官的快感,就是所謂文化,近十多年最賣座的電影,都是滿足觀眾的視聽之娛,多過啟發思考及自省。

這些快感,通常是不持久的、短暫的,隔一段時間後,便要重複再消費。對生產商來說,最好每一次新消費帶來的快感,可以超越上一次,卻不可完全滿足了欲望。完全滿足了,不用再消費,等於殺雞取卵;就算是隔得太久才再消費,也欠缺經濟效益。所謂上癮,正是這個意思。

潛移默化

幾乎所有消費都會令人上癮。煙,酒、吃這類活動不用說,就是美容、按摩,嘗試過一次後,便難以擺脫。整容更易上癮,分分鐘要終身修修補補,面皮拉完又拉,脂肪抽過再抽。進食補品、玩gym,甚至跑馬拉松等「健康」活動,一樣令人上癮。上網、面書、推特、電腦遊戲──就算是益智的遊戲──統統都可以令人廢寢忘餐。總之,每發明一樣新的科技、新的消遣,不旋踵就會有心理學家、社會學家或什麼什麼專家,調查研究發現,那事情會令人上癮,上癮就會帶來不良後果。

為什麼會這樣?原因之一,人本來就有上癮的傾向,現代人更由小時候開始,被資本主義消費文化潛移默化成癮君子,只差在上什麼癮而已。原因之二是,任何新科技發明,一旦商品化,要大量推銷,便會內置令人上癮的「功能」,才能獲得商業上的成功。近年極為賣座的超級英雄電影,由哈利波特到蝙蝠俠到《復仇者聯盟》,都會令人上癮的追看。