Feb 01

China Watch Blog received this statement which it wishes to share with reader. The statement reads: Imagine your life or fortune is on the line in a courtroom in America and 12 jurors hold your fate in their hands?

Easing that scary proposition out of the minds of people on trial is what led Jason Bloom to developing a path of taking the guesswork out of jury outcomes.

Bloom says, “Juries are like icebergs – what you see above water is the demographics; age, ethnicity and gender. However, below the water are attitudes, life experiences and predispositions which are more predictive to the outcome of a case.”

His crystal ball has been put to the test in more than 350 cases as his company, Bloom Strategic Consulting, celebrates five years and an astonishing 90 percent accuracy rate.

Bloom has become a modern-day Nostradamus taking the mystery out of the judicial process and easing clients fears so they don’t have to sit on pins and needles throughout the length of the case.

His company profiles the jury through mock trials and focus groups to see what’s important and what’s not important to the men and women in the box.

“What I’ve really learned and what’s still fascinating to me is that there is a gap probably the size of an ocean between what lawyers and witnesses want to tell juries and what these juries actually want to see, hear and care about towards making their ultimate decisions and rendering verdicts,” says Bloom.

Working on science and strategy not hunches also led Jason Bloom to build his own legal laboratory in Dallas, Texas, called TrialMode. It’s a state-of-the-art mock courtroom designed for realistic, trial-like examination of case strategy, fact patterns and witnesses the ultimate decision makers’ point of view.

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Feb 01

China Watch Blog reports that Hong Kong’s Gross Domestic Product grew by 5% in real terms in 2011 and the underlying inflation rate averaged 5.3%, a marked rise from the 1.7% rate in 2010.

Delivering his 2012-13 Budget today, Financial Secretary John Tsang said exports steadied in the fourth quarter to bring growth for 2011 to 3.6% in real terms.

He said Hong Kong lost 62,000 jobs during the economic recession in the wake of the financial tsunami but the unemployment rate rebounded slightly to 3.3% towards the end of 2011, which still represented full employment.

Mr Tsang said the Government’s measures to stabilise the economy and the tenacity of Hong Kong people have helped the city come through crisis after crisis.

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Feb 01

China Watch Blog reports that to help young people, the middle-aged and the disabled find work, Financial Secretary John Tsang wants to implement a special employment programme.

Delivering his 2012-13 Budget today, he said the scheme will cost $175 million a year and benefit 20,000 jobseekers with employment difficulties annually.

Another $220 million is earmarked to support the Construction Industry Council in enhancing manpower training to bring fresh blood into the industry to meet the demand of future infrastructure developments.

Tsang said the Government will stabilise the employment market through support measures for enterprises, and provide suitable employment support and training directly to the working population.

The Government will soon inject $100 million into the Enhancing Employment of People with Disabilities through Small Enterprises Project. Under it, funding is granted to non-government organisations to set up small enterprises employing people with disabilities.

Tsang said the Employees Retraining Board will offer 130,000 training places in 2012-13, and allocate additional resources for the provision of placement-tied courses for the unemployed and people seeking employment. Adequate resources have also been reserved for providing an additional 30,000 training places.

The Labour Department’s Recruitment Centre for the Catering Industry & Recruitment Centre for the Retail Industry will strengthen liaison with employers in both industries to better serve their recruitment needs, and disseminate up-to-date information on the employment market to job seekers.

The Employees Retraining Board will continue to provide courses to help people who are seeking employment or changing jobs to join the catering and retail trades. Courses are also offered to employees of both trades to upgrade their skills.

Tsang said overall employment in Hong Kong is largely stable with the unemployment rate standing at a relatively low level, but he expects it to reverse its downtrend as the economy slows down. He said timely measures can be taken to lessen the impact on the community when there is upward pressure on the unemployment rate.

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Feb 01

China Watch Blog reports that a Shanghai government official has dismissed suggestions that the city will compete against Hong Kong as a global yuan hub, noting instead each city’s distinct strengths.

The Standard quoted an official as making the comments a day after the National Development and Reform Commission and the Shanghai government outlined a joint plan to make Shanghai an international center for yuan trading.

Fang Xinghai, head of Shanghai financial services office, said each city possesses “unique advantages.”

Fang added: “Shanghai market is larger in size and has more experience in serving the China market. Hong Kong has looser regulations. It is highly market-oriented and has a faster pace of innovation.”

Fang said further internationalization of the currency is essential to building an international financial hub.

“If we miss the opportunity to internationalize the yuan, the financial hub will be at risk.”

Fang noted that central government made the decision with regard to the plan and related policies would be implemented.

Ronald Aculli, chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (0388), concurred with Fang, saying Shanghai would not pose a challenge to Hong Kong.

He urged the SAR to seize the chance to consolidate its status as the offshore yuan center for the international market.

But an economist said Hong Kong has no choice but to adapt to the new reality.

“This will likely make offshore renminbi centers less relevant in the medium term and challenge Hong Kong’s status as China’s sole international financial center,” said Liu Ligang, head of greater China Economics at ANZ Research.

“Hong Kong will need to re-invent itself to meet the challenges posed by Shanghai once China lifts capital controls.”

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Feb 01

China Watch Blog wishes to point out to Hong Kong online shoppers that they are virtually unprotected against overseas traders, and in this respect, complaints against online shopping surged dramatically last year, according to the consumer watchdog.

From just two cases in 2010, the number of complaints rose to 548 last year, the Consumer Council said, adding that the surge might be due to online shopping becoming more popular.

But it said many trading portals were located outside Hong Kong and fell outside SAR jurisdiction.

The Standard reported Council chairman Anthony Cheung Bing- leung as sayin that there is no protection at all for customers who shop online through overseas portals.

“Any transactions, no matter in a physical shop or online shop, within the territory are protected by SAR laws on consumers rights, but a vacuum appears when consumers are buying from overseas portals,” he said.

Most of the complaints concerned non- delivery and quality of goods or services which respectively comprised 32 percent and 20 percent.

Cheung said it will be a priority for the council to discuss with Hong Kong law enforcers ways to plug the loophole.

The sales portals are urged to carefully scrutinize merchant partners and to state clearly the terms and conditions about the sales on their websites for consumer reference.

“By doing so, the good reputation of their business can be positively sustained, names can be protected online,” Cheung said.

Consumers are also reminded to be careful when purchasing online and to think twice before buying, as well as to evaluate the reliability and credibility of the website before signing up.

Last year also saw a dramatic increase in complaints related to infant formula, which rose 173 percent to 194 cases, from 71 cases in 2010.

Cheung said most of the complaints were by parents frustrated by the surge in price and formula being out of stock. Suppliers should act swiftly to ensure adequate stocks and also set up customer hotlines, he said.

Meanwhile, another category showing a sharp increase in discontent was medical services, where complaints leaped by 38 percent to 239 cases from 173 in 2010. They included price disputes over maternity packages in hospitals.

The council will focus on three areas this year: the enactment of a competition bill, legislation on first-hand sales of residential properties and extension of trade descriptions ordinances from products to services.

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Feb 01

China Watch Blog has started this category because we have been receiving so much spam that we think black-listing them and shaming them would be one way to get them off our back.

Any comments.

Feb 01

China Watch Blog reports that Financial Secretary John Tsang has proposed enhancing the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme by increasing the maximum loan guarantee ratio to 80% for which the Government will provide a guarantee commitment of $100 billion while the guarantee fee will be lowered.

Delivering his 2012-13 Budget at the Legislative Council today, Mr Tsang said under the current scheme launched by the Mortgage Corporation, the maximum loan guarantee ratio is 70%.

The concessionary measures will include a new loan guarantee product with a higher ratio of 80% for which the Government will provide a total guarantee commitment of $100 billion.

While the annual guarantee fee for a loan with a guarantee ratio of 70% currently stands at 32%-35% of the loan facility’s interest rate, that for a loan with a guarantee ratio of 80% under the new concessionary measures will be lowered to 10%-12%.

The concessionary scheme will be open for application for nine months. Taking into account the anticipated default rate, the estimated government expenditure will be about $11 billion.

To further assist small and medium enterprises, the Export Credit Insurance Corporation will introduce new terms in their insurance policy, which will include special concessions on February 6.

It will also extend the sales-by policy launched in March last year to contracts between Hong Kong exporters’ overseas or Mainland subsidiaries of which the Hong Kong policyholders have control, and their buyers.

He also proposes waiving business registration fees for 2012-13, which will cost the Government $1.9 billion, and reduce profits tax for 2011-12 by 75%, subject to a ceiling of $12,000. The reduction will be reflected in the taxpayers’ final tax payable for 2011-12. The proposal will benefit all taxpayers who are liable to profits tax and will cost the Government $1.12 billion.

He proposes halving the charges for import and export declarations and estimates each enterprise engaging in import-export business will save $9,000 a year on average. This will cost the Government $750 million a year.

Abolishing capital duty levied on local companies is also proposed. It will cost the Government $90 million a year.

Feb 01

China Watch Blog reports that Financial Secretary John Tsang forecasts the average underlying inflation rate will drop from last year’s 5.3% to 4% this year, while the headline inflation rate is estimated to be 3.5%.

In his 2012-13 Budget speech at the Legislative Council today, Tsang said he is not optimistic about Hong Kong’s export performance in the first half of the year, and if exports plunge in the first quarter, the overall economy may take a downturn in that quarter.

He said the measures proposed are worth nearly $80 billion and make a strong package which will help stimulate the economy 1.5 percentage points this year.

He forecasts Gross Domestic Products growth will be 1% to 3% in real terms for this year.

With global food and commodity prices retreating from peaks and local costs easing off as a result of the economic slowdown, he believes the inflation rate will ease quite visibly in the second half of this year.

The average underlying inflation rate for the year is expected to drop from last year’s 5.3% to 4% this year. The headline inflation rate is estimated at 3.5% after taking account of the effects of the one-off measures he proposes.

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Feb 01

China Watch Blog reports that Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary John C Tsang in his 2012-13 Budget speech in the Legislative Council says that given the bleak economic prospects in Europe and the US, the risk of a sharp deterioration of the external environment is increasing.

“Despite their relatively strong economic fundamentals, Asian and emerging market economies have seen a noticeable slowdown in their growth momentum recently.

“If Hong Kong’s exports of goods were to plunge in the first quarter, the overall economy might take a downturn in that quarter,” he says.

“Fortunately, many Asian economies have started to ease their monetary policies, and there is also much policy room for the Mainland to bolster economic growth.

“So long as the European debt crisis does not escalate into a full blown crisis, the Asian region should be able to serve as an anchor for the global economy. Hong Kong’s external trade may also see some improvement in the second half of this year.”

“I shall introduce measures worth nearly $80 billion in this year’s Budget to better prepare our people for the difficult time ahead. Besides supporting enterprises and people in meeting challenges, these measures will help ease the burden of inflation on people.

“This is a strong package of measures and would help stimulate the economy 1.5 percentage points in 2012. The measures, coupled with other positive factors including our strong economic fundamentals, the robust performance of the tourism industry and a wealth of infrastructure projects being rolled out, will help tide us over a difficult and thorny year.

“Even so, economic growth will inevitably be lower than the average growth rate over the past decade. I forecast GDP growth of one to three per cent in real terms for 2012.”

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