HK named World’s Freest Economy again!

Even by its own embarrassing standards, the Hong Kong government has rarely looked as lame and pitiful as in its attempts to justify the determined criminalization of ride-hailing apps, personified by Uber.

Perhaps Hong Kong’s officials were emboldened by Uber’s mounting reputational problems in the US, from poor treatment of its drivers to a recent sexual harassment scandal. The company’s loss of its cool and trendy innovation/tech appeal represented a perfect opportunity for our bureaucrats to give it a good kicking for willfully ‘breaking the law’ (and ‘undermining our core values’) by operating here.

But the Hong Kong public have not been so easily fooled. As not one but two South China Morning Post columns make clear, the government is simply trying to protect the speculative investments of some (well-connected) rent-seekers who hold the city’s limited number of taxi licences.

The fact that the threat to these vested interests comes from the officially hyped ‘innovation/tech Silicon Valley’ thing is a double embarrassment to the administration, which went to great lengths to establish a whole bureau to promote space-age cyber-info-blah-blah. It is a reminder of the essential principle that the Hong Kong government will favour cartels and cronies over competition and the interests of the overall population and economy. This is hardly news (see housing, supermarkets, construction supplies and dozens of other domestic markets). But in this case, the failure of governance is particularly stark.

Ride-hailing apps have become popular in Hong Kong because they meet a real social need by filling a gap in local transport options. Existing taxi services are fairly cheap but crummy and inflexible, and in practice won’t serve certain types of route.

Looking at the big picture, Hong Kong needs to embrace new approaches to how it uses scarce road space. In urban areas the streets are clogged up with illegally parked or crawling vehicles, at the expense of pedestrians and air quality. At a bare minimum the government should be pedestrianizing and pricing private cars out of the most crowded districts. Ride-hailing aps could help us use space more efficiently (essentially by better utilizing cars and reducing the need for parking space).

Looking further ahead, it will be technologically possible and practical, indeed necessary, in cities to replace single-owner cars and traditional taxis with shared self-driving electronic vehicles, operated by companies that may or may not include Uber. Under just-slightly-visionary leadership, densely developed and economically advanced Hong Kong could be pioneering this sort of change – and selling its know-how to Mainland cities, and probably to all sorts of politically correct Belt and Road markets as well.

Except it won’t because – as we approach the 20th anniversary of the handover, and the last few days of Chief Executive CY Leung – all that matters is protecting some parasites sitting on 1970s-style taxi licenses. Contrived mouth-frothing about Uber as a law-breaker just highlights the fact. And now please all rise and bow to the Chinese Communist Party for so wisely and considerately choosing such high-quality leadership for us.

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18 Responses to HK named World’s Freest Economy again!

  1. You identify some problems, like this one, but you miss the biggest. The burgeoning economic disenfranchisement in what is supposedly a rampant Capialist system. The expanding working class. All such systems are pre-revolutionary, not vibrant economies.

    Your solutions, like today’s, are pure neo-liberal, you definitely do not see the big picture, you see marks in the varnish, so you are completely out of touch. You need a brain enema.

    Look to England. The Tories and other neoliberal are clueless. Marx is not read any more. He is not relevant. But he is chuckling in his grave.

    Here comes Corbyn. I told you a long time ago. In Hong Kong all we need is for some clever person to start talking to the toerags. Then we start the lynchings.

  2. Stuart says:

    Didn’t the government also made Teslas much more expensive by forgetting to renew subsidy for them?

  3. Chinese Netizen says:

    Please…any more usage of Hong Kong together with “core values” is going to make me puke.

  4. PCC says:

    Self-driving cars operating on an Uber-like call system in Hong Kong is a no-brainer for everyone except for the arrogant risk-averse golden rice bowl no-brainers who lord it over us.

    Life was better under the British.

  5. Red Dragon says:

    Hemmers, don’t you think that the time has come to give Adams the push?

    Like Theresa May, he is past his sell by date, and like terrorists and suicide bombers, he should be starved of the oxygen of publicity.

    I beg you to put us all out of our misery.

  6. Stephen says:

    The rotten boroughs (functional seats) still have to be bought off in order for the continuance of slavish obedience to the CCP, via the Hong Kong puppet administration. The grossly distorted composition of the legislature is not going to change period as there is simply too much cold hard cash involved. Wonder how the Hong Kong CCP Patriots (there must be some that are not too indoctrinated to notice) feel about that ?

  7. Anon says:

    Here! Here!
    As Red Dragon suggests, do us all a favour and give Adams the push – preferably off his beloved bike.

  8. reductio says:

    @Everybody

    I’m not a fan (pace Mandarin Oriental) of George Adams, but at least he always has a blue tagline. Just skip it without reading. Personally, I think it’s interesting to have his Marxist views in this blog. Let a thousand (or is it hundred?) flowers bloom …
    Actually, after looking at this bilge:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efHmjQQQjYw

    Marxism doesn’t look so bad.

  9. C.Law says:

    There is much wrong with the current taxi and Public Light Bus systems in HK and they do need fixing. Perhaps ride-hailing services could be part of the solution. However, Uber is most certainly not the solution. The company’s business model, internationally, has been to go into markets and flout the law depending on a multi-billion USD war chest to try and wait out local authorities. The local drivers are operating without the proper licences or insurance. The latter is a very serious traffic offence, not least because any passengers or other parties injured in accidents will not receive compensation payments. The local head of the company operation has admitted as much, stating that “Uber should not be illegal”.

    There are appropriate ways to attempt to change the law or licencing systems in various jurisdictions, particularly when the company has so much money it could spend on lobbying. Flouting the law is not one of them.

    For their own protection and to show that this kind of treatment of the legal process is not supported responsible HK citizens should not use Uber.

    It should be noted that HK is by no means the only jurisdiction to find the Uber business model reprehensible.

  10. Joe Blow says:

    I agree with reductio. Just skip Adams’ drivel (but you will read it anyway, won’t you, you naughty little you ?). If Hemlock starts blocking alternative voices then this blog will end up like the Hong Kong Club, were all members talk, look and dress exactly the same (do they admit wimmin these days ?).

  11. Probably says:

    One improvement to bring the existing taxis closer to the 21st Century would be to accept credit cards and Octopus and use autotoll. That at least would be a start and deflect some criticism.

  12. Laguna Lurker says:

    I must add my voice to the growing clamour to drive George Adams from this venue. His raison d’être is solely to attack and demean you. He is consumed with envy because no one reads his witless blog. You should block him from commenting. He lowers the tone of the conversation. He used to be an avid Fox News fan but now appears to have transformed himself into a socialist (not that I have anything against socialism). He changes his viewpoint more often than his knickers.

  13. Gromit says:

    Peter Guy suggests that ‘Perhaps Uber’s only salvation in Hong Kong is for Didi Chuxing (its mainland partner) to enter the city and overturn the cartel.’
    However, as long the HK government relies in Legco on the rotten boroughs of the (dys)functional constituencies, Didi Chuxing is more likely to be under strict orders from the powers in Beijing to leave HK well alone, so as not to upset the parasites in the transport sector.

  14. LRE says:

    Another article waving the flag for uber in the scump today. Makes me wonder when alibaba are going to roll out their copy of uber.

  15. CassowaryWong says:

    Uber is clearly an unscrupulous business (in no particular order: underpaying drivers, sabotaging competitors, Neanderthal-level sexism, illegally obtaining a passenger’s medical records) but the Hong Kong government is still idiotically hidebound.

    Also, I don’t care who this George person is but you lot whingeing about him on every single blog post is far more annoying than his repetitive, semi-coherent blather. This geezer grudge match ceased to be entertaining months ago.

  16. Old Newcomer says:

    I look forward to seeing self-driving cars versus Mongkok’s “if I ignore that car while walking along the middle of the road it won’t be there” pedestrians.

  17. C.Law says:

    Old Newcomer, dead right!

    For anyone interested in the background to Uber see the in depth analysis in four articles which begin at
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/11/can-uber-ever-deliver-part-one-understanding-ubers-bleak-operating-economics.html
    for one take on the company.

    Interesting to see that the CEO is taking leave following the report by Eric Holder into the company’s m.o. I hope they publish the report.

  18. dimuendo says:

    Old Newcomer and C. Law

    A slightly different take might be simply not to allow private cars, whether in Mongkok or elsewhere. Vastly more room, and safety, for all, including those who were previously swanning around in their Alphards or whatever.

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