Generation 40s – 四十世代

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車公求籤各取所需

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A14 | 時事評論 | 政局筆記 | By 江麗芬 |
2013-02-16

車公真好,每年在農曆新年、新聞淡靜的日子,車公的籤文往往都會帶給傳媒以至大眾不少茶餘飯後的話題;就像今年,今天雖已到了初七、人日之際,但初二求得車公那支下籤,仍然成為不少港人關注的事。

今年的籤文淺白易明,說「駟馬高車出遠途,今朝赤腳返回廬;莫非不第人還井,亦似經營乏本歸」,解作: 「宜慎小人,凡事不利」。單看籤文,如果相信車公有靈的話,大抵心中會生疙瘩,擔心未來一年香港的經濟、政治以至「方方面面」的發展,求而不可得、甚至可能「倒蝕」,香港難有運行;而且籤文的解說,還令大家在推敲究竟誰是籤中所說要多加慎防的「小人」。

當年求籤只求意頭

不知從什麼時候開始, 「初二到車公拜神求籤問卜」已成為指點香港政治迷津的路標。

這或許始於2003 年,當年由時任民政事務局局長何志平求得八十三籤下籤,喻意「凡事不吉」,而後香港人在同年經歷過沙士爆發,經濟不景,復有二十三條立法,觸發逾五十萬人上街遊行反對政府,高官下台;香港那一年,可說差得不能再差了,令人覺得車公「真係好靈」。

追溯香港這段求籤簡史,可見官員到車公廟求籤,早已不是什麼新鮮事物。當年,政府官員多數由地區的專員在鄉紳陪同下到車公廟求籤,當是入鄉隨俗;為求攞個意頭,每年從籤筒掉出來的籤不是上籤,便是中籤,而且上籤似乎還佔多數。

即使八十年代中,有傳曾有官員求得下籤,鄉紳即時以「求籤人求籤時未夠誠心」為由,要求重搖籤筒,及至搖得上籤,才以上籤為準。如此這般,一切只求皆大歡喜,各人也就對求籤這回事不太認真,看作是農曆新年的一場騷,求個意思。

可是到了2003 年,何志平「新手」上場,一求而求得下籤,而且還要他事後補一句:證明求籤無作假、沒有故意抽走下籤的做法;加上籤文果然與當年發生的連串大事呼應,結果每逢年初二到車公廟為香港前程問卜,便成了大家關注的一件事。今年鄉議局主席劉皇發替香港求得下籤,雖然有人質疑他憑什麼代表港人求籤,但無論如何也引起了一些憂慮。身邊有朋友說,恐怕車公又再靈驗,今年萬事不順。

只是,究竟大家相信車公靈驗,還是其實早已憂慮現今的香港境況?在兩者間,看來後者還是主要因素。

事實上,雖說今年的籤文淺白易明,知道那是說蘇秦求官求不得、兼且落得赤腳而返的狼狽境況,但把這段籤文套入香港來年運程之上,又說明了什麼?說香港冇運行?

還是特首冇運行?恐怕沒有人能夠說得準。

即使是車公廟門外的解籤相士,也是各說各話,版本不盡相同。

今年的情況其實一如往年,不論求籤人是劉皇發,還是其他政府官員,求得的籤文總是讓人充滿無限想像。就像2009 年農曆年的籤文說: 「君不須防人不肖,眼前鬼卒皆為妖」;誰是眼前鬼卒、誰是妖?又像2011 年農曆年,車公籤文說「威人威威不是威」,究竟說「不是威」的是當時的特首曾蔭權,還是整體香港人?

到了去年,正值特首選舉競爭激烈之際,車公的籤文說: 「何為邪鬼何為神,神鬼如何兩不分。但管信邪修正外,何愁天地不知聞」,令人對於當時梁振英與唐英年兩個建制派候選人為爭逐特首之位鬥得死去活來的境況有無限聯想。是耶非耶,當然也就不得而知。

即使傳媒每年大篇幅報道,可是報道了的,都是各人說他們心中所想的版本,因為一切都沒人可以權威地說得準,自然可讓大家各取所需,按他們如何看待當天香港的境況而各自表述。

所以,說到底,對於車公的籤文也就毋須太過認真,它大可能是公眾以至閣下心目中對社會的現象的一個對號入座。說到這裏,也就不得不佩服當年的官員對於向車公求籤那「是是旦旦」、但求「皆大歡喜」的態度,因為他們知道那不過是新年求個氣氛,最緊要大家安心!

更須防信小人的人

今年車公籤文一出,大家除了留意那是下籤、唯恐喻意來年不太吉利外,還有在猜度究竟誰是籤文所指的「小人」。

誰是小人?誰會是小人?一如剛才所言,當然又是各取所需的時候。泛民議員會說,那定必是特首梁振英;支持梁振英、有不喜歡泛民的人卻可以說,小人就是一些專批評政府的立法會議員,令香港凡事不利。說到最後,原來不過是看你的政治立場如何。

斟酌誰是小人,根本就不重要。歷史早已說明,小人讒臣能夠得逞,不是他們突然在政治舞台上出現,那不過是手握權力的人重用和誤信小人而已。

所以,要追尋誰是小人、誰令香港凡事不利,倒不如看看掌權者是否有能力分辨是非對錯。

香港回歸十五年至今,最大的社會問題是什麼?答案可能各有各說,但唯一共有的說法應該離不開一個「樓」字!到底三位特首在這十五年裏採用過什麼良策(或惡策)應對樓市的「供應、需求、價格」?

為本報撰寫「經濟3.0」專欄的三位年輕經濟學者梁天卓、曾國平、徐家健將於下周一、二(18 日、19 日)一連兩天,以「通往危機之路」為題,為讀者探索這個切身問題的成因,並提出具體的解決方法,敬請讀者留意。

江麗芬

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Unity will defeat the extremists

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
LEADER
SCMP Editorial
2013-04-17

The twisted mind of the perpetrator of the attack on Boston’s marathon is impossible to fathom. No matter what their grievance or message, who could believe that harming children, fun-runners, athletes and spectators was an accomplishment? Yet the bombs were timed to cause the maximum loss of life, without regard for who was caught in the blasts, all in the name of making a point for which none of us will now ever care. There will never be sympathy for people who commit such acts, no matter how justified they may seem to themselves; there will only be unity against their extreme ways.

That is especially so given the event that was targeted, those who were caught up in the attack and the manner in which it was carried out. The Boston Marathon is among the world’s most prestigious, its 117-year pedigree ensuring that runners from far and wide and all walks of life want to participate. Dozens from China, including Hong Kong, were among the 23,000 participants, their thoughts on best times, goals, raising funds for worthy causes and simply having fun. The half a million spectators who lined the historic 42-kilometre course, friends, relatives, tourists and the curious among them, were celebrating the occasion, a monument to athleticism, accomplishment and enjoyment.

But four hours into the run, long after the winners had broken the tape, two explosive devices went off seconds apart near the finish line. There is no busier place or time during a marathon, with a majority on the course and spectators packed tightly to cheer on and celebrate. For the cold-hearted and calculating, it was the perfect setting. There was a ball of fire, a boom and then chaos, the cheers and applause in an instant turning to wails and screams.

The death and grief, blood and lost limbs were what the attacker wanted. If blanket media coverage and alerts in major cities were the goal, it has been accomplished. For what purpose we will not know for sure until those responsible come forward or are caught. Whatever the reason, be it domestic or international, it is of no consequence; an outrage has been committed and for that, there is no vindication.

There is good and bad in human nature; we have been witness to the best and worst. But there is also a spirit of resilience that refuses to give in to extremists. Freedoms and crowd-drawing celebrations will continue, no matter how much security is required. There is unity and it will prevail.


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年年有魚

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C05 | 城市智庫 | 6角都市 | By Marie |
2013-02-16

農曆新年奉旨休養生息,唯一是窩在媽媽家裏天天「步步糕升」,「發財蠔市」,控制不住心廣體胖,偏偏我媽的蘿蔔糕是全球至美味的!

有了阿媽的真傳,我的廚藝自然不差,那天Simon上來,我就做了一道牛油果鮮魷沙律,平時吃慣街口炸魷魚鬚的他也讚不絕口。

做法很簡單,牛油果搗爛,加番茄粒、洋葱粒、橄欖油和鹽攪勻,魷魚筒洗乾淨,往筒裏塞一把刀,在筒面橫切,這樣魷魚筒一面會切開卻不會斷,煎起來易熟而不會猛收縮。魷魚加橄欖油和鹽調味,煎一下,加酒,熟了切開幾圈,放上牛油果面,香草、伴碟隨意,就成了。

顯示消費者力量

這樣駕輕就熟除了多謝阿媽,還要多謝Jamie Oliver和他那個很有心的節目《大城小廚之年年有魚》。

銀鱈魚、黑線鱈和吞拿魚,佔了英國人所吃的野生魚類總量三分二,但自七十年代以來,這幾種魚的數量下降了80%,Oliver於是親自上船,展開一次護魚行動,介紹用十種以其他魚類做的簡單菜式,希望消費者下次到超市買魚時,想想這些另類的魚,減輕海洋負擔。

青鱈魚和大眼鱈和鱈魚是親戚,鱒魚味道似三文魚。銀鱈游得慢,肉白而不腥,自然也被捉得多。像我這種不太挑剔的食客──我相信大部分Oliver的同胞也是──未必能分出味道,只求就手罷了,但這種購物慣性,就可能害魚終害人。

消費者的慣性,把不少魚類都害得很慘,就拿黃蓋鰈和鯡魚為例,英國的漁船在拖網捕魚時,捕獲大量的黃蓋鰈和鯡魚,不過這些魚不受歡迎,漁夫直接把牠們重棄到大海,有96%的鯡魚會遭此厄運而死掉。

Oliver不斷強調,下次到超市時,買些冷門魚類,如店家說沒有賣,就問為什麼沒有,從而製造需求,消費者的力量比政客大得多。

當然消費者並不完全盲目,有些魚也不爭氣,例如多骨,例如長得醜。為了幫牠們討回消費者歡心,Oliver還教了鯡魚、沙甸魚的起骨方法,又幫魷魚鎅花,而不是一味「保護海洋、人人有責」地空喊口號。

英國出口約70%的貝殼類海產,同時又入口約70%貝殼類海產,就是口味的問題。好像青口和棕蟹,煮法很簡單,也很美味,偏偏英國人就不欣賞。以前聽說英國泥蟹濫生,就想如果讓我們同胞知道,必定大量搜捕,清蒸、拆膏、配黃酒,還不用擔心激素和水質污染。

鯖魚也是Oliver介紹的十大冷門魚之一。當我還是窮學生的時候,這種魚又便宜又好吃(對愛腥的人來說),是我主要的蛋白質來源,也是個很好的回憶。

下次我們過新年,不要再拍「發財好市、 財就手」那些看着都膩的菜式,平時也不要「雞有雞味魚有魚味」那種言而無物的飲食節目,也不要一味「有機」而漠視選擇有限價格昂貴,就像魚一樣,做點另類的罷。

Marie@ 6角都市

Marie


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西班牙祭

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C05 | 城市智庫 | 6角都市 | By Joe |
2013-02-16

一歲除,新的春天將至。當夜機騰空而起時,我看到舷窗外城市的上空中還有爆竹在驚歎。焰火試探着攀上雲端,在天空開出一些漫山遍野的花。

那個懂得很多道理兼走過很多路的朋友曾經說過:「生命應當如同旅程般精采,長路漫漫,永莫言棄。」於是,這個農曆新年的七天大假,我選擇上路去旅行。這一站,是西班牙。

「新年牙祭,帶你去我最心愛的小鎮。」朋友把車開上蜿蜒的山路。

「還有多遠?你確定我們還沒有開出國境線?」感覺車程已經久到可以抵達巴黎後,我終於忍不住發問。

燒燒菜聊聊天

「有些目的地必須經過一番跋涉,才有驚喜。如同有些事情必須經歷等待,才會有收穫。」朋友指向陡峭的山坡,「看,我們已經到了。」果然,坡頂是成群的羊如雲朵般熙熙攘攘的飄過。這個小鎮,建於近五百年前,當時鎮上只有七戶牧羊人。到了二百多年前,人口逐漸增多。牧羊人選出了自己的第一位鎮長。又過了一百多年,居民們才逐漸從山頂遷居到山腳下,繼續過着財產平分,不分貧富的田園生活。

新年牙祭的正戲,是一家無比美味又無比平價的餐館。友人說,這家餐廳是好客的老鎮長免費提供場地。招來西班牙各地名廚,只在周末才開門對外營業。名廚們燒燒菜,聊聊天,爬爬山,只當是來免費度假,小鎮,如同避世桃源。這家餐館的存在,不為賺錢,只為訪客們有地方落腳。

鄉間美食一道道端上來,羅勒茄子鹹火腿匹薩,帶着陽光芬芳的日曬番茄乾沙拉,配着小辣椒的烤山羊芝士,無不好吃到牙齒都黏在一起,恨不得連舌頭一起吞下。

餐畢,沿着石階信步而下。崖壁邊上的小酒館外,一個流浪歌手彈起結他吟唱。友人低聲把歌詞翻譯給我們聽:「潔白的雪地,必須親自踩過,才會留下痕迹;蒼老的年輪,必須親手畫完,才會有新的朝陽升起。」歌聲在石板岩間回蕩,歷史氣息撲面而來,厚重且清新。這道板岩堆疊,是西元前二世紀的古凱爾特人城堡遺迹。順着山路走下去,則是留有石器時代動物壁畫的岩洞。

傳說中,這是全西班牙最古老的居住地之一。在當年馬德里還是一片汪洋的時候,這裏已經是海平面上的小島。口耳相傳的歌謠裏,這裏有過自己的國王,住在高高的草場上。後來的戰火毀去所有的史料,傳說已經無從印證。但在這片起源之地,我們仍舊能在險蹬荒苔之間,縱橫交錯的各種遺迹中,隱約想像逝去的榮光。

次日天光乍現時,我們離開山麓裏的小鎮,離開那場黏住了牙齒的牙祭,去馬德里。從車窗裏看出去,星星點點的燈火仍睡意朦朧。在告別這片桃源時,也迎來了更美麗的朝霞。走遍世界,彷彿只是在繞完一圈年輪的圓滿。

在不知名的田野和清晨。我們把車停下來,喝了一杯咖啡。然後把杯子放在石頭上,彷彿與天空對飲。接着,繼續走向回來的路。

Joe@ 6角都市

Joe


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China could learn from Singapore’s public housing model

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2013-04-17

Winston Mok

Winston Mok says China could set up a national housing board similar to Singapore’s to drive its ambitious plan for affordable urban housing, rather than rely on reluctant local officials

Even with the small dip after strong control measures, housing prices in Hong Kong remain near a historic high. With its property among the most expensive in the world, Hong Kong has long grappled with the problem of housing affordability. The government relies on land sales as a major source of income and lacks a coherent housing strategy. To effectively address it, a co-ordinated programme should have been put in place more than two decades ago.

Yet mainland China has worse housing problems than Hong Kong. But it is not too late to fix it. Only about 10 per cent of mainland urban housing is public housing, compared to Hong Kong’s 50 per cent. In contrast, more than 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in Housing Development Board flats, mostly owner-occupied. Through this public housing scheme, Singapore has achieved the highest home ownership rate in Asia – at 90 per cent, according to the latest figures – contributing to its social stability.

Expensive housing is one of the obstacles standing in the way of mainland China’s urbanisation. Using the housing price-to-income ratio as an indication, mainland cities have a ratio of 16 (comparable to Hong Kong’s 18, much higher than Singapore’s 6), among the highest in the world.

Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan, who originally came from a farming village, half jokingly said that he would like to use his sizeable prize money to buy an apartment in Beijing, but given the high prices, he could afford only a modest apartment outside the downtown areas.

China has introduced a series of measures to cool the housing sector. From the beginning of this month, a 20 per cent capital gains tax has been levied on second-hand property transactions in many cities. As with many earlier measures deemed ineffective, this latest tax is seen by some as counterproductive in the long term. These control measures restrict demand without increasing supply.

Only ample supply will keep prices affordable. Therefore, the fundamental solution is a significant public housing programme, which would increase overall supply and reduce demand for commercial housing at the same time.

While China has embarked on an ambitious programme of building 36 million public housing units in the five years from 2011, the target is unlikely to be met if left in the hands of local governments. After a surge in 2011 and peaking in 2012, central government subsidies for public housing have declined this year, heralding a potential slowdown of the programme. Since it began, the number of new starts has declined year by year, and fewer than 5 million units have been completed per year. At this rate, by 2015 the number is unlikely to exceed 25 million.

Importantly, these units are reserved for local people and not migrant workers, whose access to crowded tenements is squeezed as land is cleared for new apartments. Public housing is bad business for local governments, which like to maximise land prices to increase their revenue. It reduces demand of land for private housing, thus depressing both prices and volumes. Since public housing is seen by local governments as against their economic interests, they will find creative ways to “manage” the central government and compromise the programme’s effectiveness.

To implement an effective public housing programme, China could set up a centralised housing development board. After a transition period, this board would be responsible for developing public housing nationwide. Regional and local branches would report to the headquarters.

World-class professionals should be appointed to lead it and be held accountable to deliver against well-defined performance targets. The board’s performance, reported on its website, could then be monitored by other government or statutory bodies. In addition to the timely completion of apartments in accordance with quality standards, the performance of both the national housing board and the local governments should be measured on whether the units are assigned to the intended occupants.

China need not go as far as Singapore’s model, which is dominated by public housing. Beijing could start with a more modest target of 30 per cent public housing in cities, to be gradually adjusted over time and by region, based on market signals. Hong Kong’s level of 50 per cent could be a longer-term, although not necessarily final, goal for some cities.

The supply of new public housing may be linked to housing prices. The higher the prices in a city, the higher the level of public housing that will be provided; this could help prevent runaway prices.

Effective urbanisation should be based on providing affordable housing to new urban residents. An effective owner-occupier public housing programme will boost domestic demand, increase gross domestic product and improve social stability.

Singapore’s public housing programme is the most visible part of its social architecture. In its attempt to emulate Singapore, China could consider adapting this highly successful programme for its use.

Winston Mok is a private investor, a former private equity investor and McKinsey consultant. An MIT alum, he studied under three Nobel laureates in economics