唉！男女的確有別！特別女仕們的幽默感確是與男仕們有一段距離。咋天發言，講稿由助理(男)執筆，不覺得有問題，加上昨天辯論氣氛輕鬆，發言令在座男議員會心微笑，甚會拉到女權專政、多口鬧事頭上？做議員，對政府施政、政制發展、社會公義，不平則鳴，間中一吐心中話，也罪不至死。 其實一向認為，這社會是互動的，要達到理想目的，要說的便要說。當然，若不認同目的，難免不覺得有說話的必要，但互相包容，豁達大度也有其可取之處。 今天看了《明報》的指責，不期然想起了希健斯教授(Professor Higgins) 於《賣花女》(My Fair Lady)中的名曲《為什麼女不如男？》(Why Can’t Women Be Like Men?) 。那歌曲的歌詞確是妙極！不知作者作曲後有否被妻子責難？ 相信在這裡一吐苦水，又會帶來更多爭論；但這番話確是不吐不快，反正已被定性，這批評是逃不了的！
長毛辱罵記者是狗，正如社民連常掛口邊所言，當然是絕對不該。罵人有時也要講技巧。執業時，曾有前輩訓導說，罵法官和對手也要「有禮貌」；最高境界是罵了他們也不知，要他們靜下來想一想，才發覺被罵！ 話又說回來，罵人是狗，有多大侮辱性？這是中國人的傳統罵人方式，主要意思是為人低下，只懂聽令於他人，唯命是從；是頗大侮辱性的。但在現今西化社會中，也有自比為狗的俚語；例如：「我工作如狗一般」(I worked like a dog!) ；或「我被雨淋得如狗一般」；不算得是什麼。 貓比狗懶惰得多，更懂得阿諛奉承，但奇怪沒有人罵人為貓。其實狗比貓更有人性、更忠心。而豬則比狗更聰明，可能更險惡，所以有「扮豬食老虎」之說。而狐狸當然是最狡猾兇險的了；罵人是狐狸是對受罵者人格的嚴重批判，可能侮辱性最大。至於罵人為鸚鵡，當然是比較小事；只是說對方是學舌者、應聲蟲；機械地模仿別人罷了。談不上有什麼侮辱性。 心有激憤，繼而罵人，有時是沒時間仔細考慮後果和他人感受的。相信每個人也經歷過語出難收的感覺，分別只是有沒有勇氣認話說過了火，有道歉的必要。長毛是性情中人，難道這點道理也不懂？
Introduction The banking industry is at the heart of the financial structure in Hong Kong and is the linchpin of the very foundation of Hong Kong as an international financial centre. As at the end of February 2008, there were 200 authorized banking institutions operating in Hong Kong: 142 licensed banks, 29 restricted license banks, and 29 deposit-taking companies; of these, 66 percent were owned by foreign investors. A total of 68 of the largest 100 banks in the world, from 38 countries, have an operation in Hong Kong. In addition, there are 80 local representative offices of overseas banks in Hong Kong.
This compares with 113 commercial banks including six local banks and 107 foreign banks in Singapore. But there is a major difference: Singapore has a full-fledged central bank in the form of Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) whereas Hong Kong has a seemingly rather passive or de facto central bank in the name of Hong Kong Monetary Authority (“HKMA”). The question is, does Hong Kong owe its success to the lack of a full-fledged central bank or can it achieve more with a central bank?
It is generally recognized that the major functions of a central bank are: Acting as government’s bank including issuer of bank notes and acting as a bankers’ bank; Formulating and implementing monetary policies including setting of interest rates; Managing foreign reserves; Regulating the banking industry;
In the case of Hong Kong, the HKMA is entrusted with managing Hong Kong’s foreign reserves and regulation of the banking industries by reason of the Exchange Fund Ordinance and the Banking Ordinance respectively. However, its involvement with the other functions of a central bank is limited.
No Government Bank First, the HKMA does not act as a government bank. Government revenue is spread amongst a number of banks but essentially the government is banking with the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank (“HSBC”), Standard Chartered Bank (“SCB”) and the Bank of China (“BOC”), but not necessarily in that order.
Secondly, it is not a note issuer. The note issuing function is performed by the government and delegated to the 3 banks mentioned above under Article 111 of the Basic Law. Unlike some other countries, the issue of currency in Hong Kong is prescribed by the Basic Law and has to be “backed by a 100 percent reserve fund” and has to be “soundly based” and “consistent with the object of maintaining the stability of the currency”. The option of influencing the local economy by this route is thus relatively limited.
The fact HKMA is not a government bank can generally be seen as a weak link: some may see the government’s finances as being dependent on the stability of other banks. In this day and age of global financial turbulence, some may think this is less than reassuring. The Hong Kong government’s response is that: Hong Kong has maintained at all times a high level of reserves; Banks are required to maintain a higher than normal equity ratio; and Hong Kong has a healthy banking structure. There is thus a reliable systemic safeguard. But: Maintaining a high level of reserves may not be a very efficient way of managing the city’s finances; The requirement of high equity ratio is not particularly inviting to all banks and some say may even be harmful to healthy competition; and A healthy banking structure is no guarantee against systemic failures in this day and age of globalization. The salutary warning of the Lehman Brothers debacles needs to be well heeded.
Lender of Last Resort The HKMA has always insisted that while it is not strictly a bankers’ bank, it is a lender of last resort. In a speech made to the Hong Kong Association of Banks (“HKBA”) in June 1999, Mr. Joseph Yam, the then Chief Executive of the HKMA further clarified the role of HKMA as a lender of last resort: It is only a lender of last resort to local banks and not to branches of foreign banks; The institution seeking help must have a sufficient margin of solvency and have exhausted other avenues of funding; There must be adequate collateral; Management must be “fit and proper” and there must not be any suspicion of fraud; The institution must be prepared to take remedial action “to deal with its liquidity problems”.
While many regard some of these “conditions” are reasonable conditions, others think some of the requirements are self contradictory and thus militates against HKMA being a true lender of last resort.
The recent financial tsunami has also exposed another deficiency in the system: when the small and medium enterprises were crying out for help in face of credit contraction, the government was powerless in persuading banks to speed up recovery of the economy even with very substantial government guarantees. A central bank would have stepped in and led the recovery.
Formulation and Implementation of Monetary Policies
Interest Rates HKMA has no power to set interest rates. Since 1964, interest rates on bank deposits in Hong Kong have been regulated by a set of interest rate rules (“IRRs”) issued by the HKBA, which describes itself as mainly a channel of communication between the government and banks. In July 2001, the IRRs were abolished entirely. By and large, prime lending rate is now set by the market leaders, namely HSBC and SCB. In any event, many will argue even with a central bank, with the link of Hong Kong currency to the US dollars, Hong Kong is unlikely to be able to use the setting of interest rates as a tool of “managing” the economy like some other countries.
Supply and Maintenance of Credit Insofar as Hong Kong’s monetary policies involve management of foreign reserves and regulation of the banking industry, HKMA is performing these functions as defined by law. But it is not an official sovereign investment bank. Even as a public investor of foreign reserves, it lacks clear legal guidelines and its workings not at all transparent. Its function as a bank regulator also creates possible conflicts with its role as an investor in the local market. There is plainly a case for the setting up of a sovereign investment bank. In this respect, Hong Kong is lacking behind Singapore and the rest of China. Apart from the functions mentioned above, HKMA has no other power of supply or maintenance of credit. With no power to supply or maintain credit and no power to set interest rates, the HKMA is unable to directly manage the economy in ways other countries can.
Is Change Possible?
If there is a case for setting up a central and sovereign investment bank in Hong Kong, is change possible politically and constitutionally? Will China accept there being two central banks within one country? The Basic Law recognizes and preserves Hong Kong’s distinct economic system: Article 106 provides Hong Kong shall have “independent finances”; Article 109 stipulates Hong Kong shall “provide an appropriate economic and legal environment for the maintenance of the status of Hong Kong as an international financial centre”; Article 110 further confirms the Hong Kong government shall, “on its own, formulate monetary and financial policies”. There are thus no constitutional obstacles to the setting up of a central and investment bank. Nor can one readily see any political opposition. Since the Handover, the BOC has been working very closely, and more importantly, has been very supportive of the HKMA. There is no reason why this closely knit relationship should change if Hong Kong were to embark upon a route towards setting up a central bank.
The ever increasing globalization of world economy demands the presence of a strong and independent central bank in every world class financial centre in the world. Hong Kong is no exception if it aspires to a stronger presence in the financial world. Let us see if Hong Kong will answer the call in the decade to come.
To the uninitiated, it is difficult to understand why Hong Kong is divided over the development of democracy. We are divided, not so much as amongst the people of Hong Kong, but between those who govern and those being governed. It is difficult to understand because democracy is a universal core value. It is enshrined not just in our Basic Law, but also in our national constitution. It has been repeatedly pledged by our leaders both in Hong Kong and in Beijing. It is difficult to understand because over the last 20 years, the people of Hong Kong have expressed openly their desire for democracy on every available occasion, be it in elections, in mass demonstrations or in various kinds of polls carried out by various organizations.
It is difficult to understand because the Central Government has already decided in 2007 that there should be universal suffrage in the election of our Chief Executive in 2017 and our legislature in 2020. So why are we still divided? We are still divided because there is deep seeded distrust between those in power and those who are powerless. It is not at all easy to trace to the source of the distrust but the failed democracy movement in Beijing in 1989 is a good start. The Central Government felt, and unfortunately still feels, that those craving democracy in Hong Kong have desires to overthrow the government or dismantle the communist system; and that therefore the best way to deal with those who cried out for democracy is to sideline them, to refuse to engage them; that the safest way to maintain stability in Hong Kong is to preserve the status quo.
But a lack of dialogue is the surest recipe for distrust and misunderstanding. A lack of dialogue is a guarantee for keeping two people apart; always back to back, never face to face. So when the Central Government laid down a timetable for the introduction of universal suffrage but at the same breath maintained functional constituencies are here to stay, the people of Hong Kong interpreted that as a disingenuous attempt to stave off the development of democracy in Hong Kong. And so the distrust deepens even further. It is like a never ending vicious spiral, forever keeping Hong Kong divided, ensuring the two sides drifting further and further apart.
And the situation will only get worse. For distrust breeds contempt; and contempt breeds rebellion. This is a road which will only lead to instability and discord, when we should be striving for unity and prosperity.
Hong Kong is at a cross road. Many of us are running out of patience. Others are getting angry. The rise of the League of Social Democrats with their aggressive challenge to the constitutional order is a clear warning. More are joining their ranks every day. And the chances of reaching a consensus over the pace of democracy have never looked so dismal. We are fast approaching a point of no return and the future of democracy in Hong Kong has never looked so bleak.
We must make a last effort. We owe it not just to ourselves but also to our children to find a way out of this morass. But we cannot do it alone. It takes two to tango. There are at least two sides to any agreement. What is needed is a determination to break the stalemate from both sides. What is needed is an appreciation that we are working towards a common goal. It is not too late to start a dialogue; but time is running out. The Chief Executive is poised to release his proposal for political reform for 2012 latest by the first quarter of next year. Early signs suggest the proposal will not lead to an internationally acceptable model for universal suffrage. We are rushing towards a repeat of the disastrous failure of political reform in 2005. This is a result of the mutual distrust between Hong Kong and Beijing. Distrust we must find ways to eliminate.
It is time to cast aside pride and prejudice and hope reason and common sense will prevail.
兒子笑我不知模為何物，當然也不知誰是周秀娜，更不知什麼是「『周秀娜』現象」。但今天從報章看到有關周秀娜出席科大「『周秀娜』現象」講座的新聞後，又有另一種看法。報導說周秀娜對主持提問她會否「梳理一吓自己的過去」不明所以，令同學們搖頭嘆息：「說模無腦，一點沒錯！」 對不起！我那份鋤強扶弱，抱打不平的劣性又浮現出來了。模無腦又如何？為什麼香港人老是視公衆人物為完人？會做戲的一定要識唱歌，懂唱歌的必須能做戲？公衆人物必須百般武藝，樣樣皆能？當然，一些基本的道德要求必須達到，但正如耶穌所言：「誰有資格扔第一塊石？」沒有學識不是死罪。相反，沒有學識多數是社會的錯。我不算有學識，但若非機緣巧合，今天的我，可能比周秀娜好不了很多。很多人口邊不斷掛着包容寬恕，但包容寬恕必須從日常生活最基本做起。 不相信這世界上有完人，只記得積臣‧布朗(Jackson Browne) 的《這些日子》結尾有這樣的一句：「不用提起我的種種失敗，我並沒有忘記它們（Don’t confront me with my failures, I had not forgotten them）！」
正如彼德、保羅和瑪莉的一代名曲（ The Times They Are A-Changing）所說，時代正在改變。但可惜時代並不如卜‧戴倫（Bob Dylan）所寫的正在破舊立新，邁向核心價值的更高境界。相反，社會文化卻似乎日趨偏向只重於表面包裝而缺乏內涵、方向。是年輕人遺失了理想，還是社會制度不容許理想的建立和散播？在這年代，實在難以想像爭取人權和社會公義的歌曲能在極權社會下得以自由發放從而觸動千萬人心、改變社會。就算不是極權社會，在缺乏民主的體制下，反對政府有違公義行為之文化和表達方式，亦會透過經濟審查、自我封殺和無理抹黑而難以深入民心。也許是當權者看透了美國民歌於挑起反戰情緒、催生人權運動的力量而學乖了。也許是理想與眼前利益根本上就難以共存、難以爭一日之長短。無論如何，現實是那股喚醒年輕人理想的聲音，已被物質的引誘取代了。
也許瑪莉還在問：《如果我有一支鎚子》（ If I Had A Hammer）？《花兒都往何處去了》（ Where Have All The Flowers Gone）？《時代正在改變》（ The Times They Are A-Changing）？君不知，答案正在《風中飄揚》（ Blowing In The Wind）。