Sunday, November 05, 2017

BWorld 162, Open pit mines and open economy

* This is my article in BusinessWorld on October 27, 2017.


Open pit mining (OPM) is not as scary and draconian as many activists would paint it to be. Thus the ban on OPM by the CA-rejected ex-DENR secretary Gina Lopez has little or zero technical basis, only emotional outburst.

The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC), the multi-stakeholder body on the sector has finally decided that the ban on OPM should be abandoned and new DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu has said that he will soon issue a new department order for this.

OPM is done and practiced in many countries including developed ones like the US, Australia, Germany, Sweden and Canada. Mining firms and their stockholders get good income, governments get huge tax revenues, many workers get long-term high-paying jobs, and consumers worldwide enjoy continued supply of electricity, gadgets, appliances, cars, steel bars and numerous other products of mining. (See table)


Now that the uncertainty of OPM banning has been removed, existing mines should be able to continue their production without fear of policy reversals. The image of the country as having fickle, atras-abante investment policies should be somehow corrected.

New, big prospective mining projects in the Philippines will hopefully see the green light for their operations. Two of those big potential projects are (1) the $2-billion MVP-led Silangan gold mine in Surigao del Norte, and (2) the $5.9-billion Tampakan gold-copper project in South Cotabato. The latter is actually the Philippines’ single biggest foreign investment project and is expected to bring huge income for the locals and the government, national and local.

Many local anti-mining groups vehemently oppose the Tampakan project citing thousands of hectares of land that will soon be wasted. That is an outright exaggeration. The copper-gold ore extraction in just one area is projected to be about 2.5 kms. wide, 3 kms. long and about 0.8 km deep, after 17 years of operation. This is significantly smaller than the Hibbing and Bingham Canyon in the US, among other big OPMs in the world.

Government should simply set the parameters and criteria for business to follow based on existing laws, like the Mining Act of 1995. Once government has given its permit and approval for a mining project, it should simply monitor the players that they comply with the laws and penalize violators, not change rules midway and in the process, violate the laws that it is bound to follow and implement in the first place.

The rule of law applies not only to businesses and regulated entities but also to the government. The rule of law applies to both governors and governed, both administrators and administered, both regulators and regulated. If governors and regulators want to exempt themselves from the law and make their own instant rules, that is the rule of men with arbitrary powers circumventing the rule of law.
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See also:
BWorld 151, Mining taxes per hectare of land, September 22, 2017
BWorld 159, Electoral reforms and the President, October 19, 2017 

IPR and Innovation 39, Recent IP developments in CN, TW, KR, ID

Reposting these news stories collated by PRA, enjoy.
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China.org.cn, September 19, 2017

The Chinese government has begun a campaign to protect the intellectual property rights (IPR) of foreign companies.

The campaign will focus on malicious trademark registration and imitation of foreign brands, the Ministry of Commerce said Monday, citing a joint action plan by 12 government departments.
From September to December, the campaign will also target infringement of online IPRs, patent rights and plant variety rights, as well as industrial espionage, according to the plan.

Lexology, October 20, 2017

China is in the middle of a rapid shift towards cloud technologies. Execution of the 13th Five Year Plan will deliver substantial investment into cloud computing and the sector is undergoing unprecedented growth. Meanwhile, organisations operating in this digital economy face an increasingly complex intellectual property (IP) environment, as China becomes a global IP center and scales up IP protection, enforcement and penalties for infringement. Indeed, the number of cloud-related IP lawsuits in China grew 158% between 2011 and 2016. Against this backdrop, organisations face an important question: how can they take advantage of the enormous opportunities presented by the cloud in a way that manages this complex IP landscape? In this post, Matt Pollins and Nick Beckett from CMS look at the practical steps organisations can take to protect themselves and succeed in the cloud. 

World Trademark Review, September 26, 2017

A major amendment in Taiwan to the regulations governing customs border measures will play a key part in protecting trademarks. The measures allow the owner of a trademark registered in Taiwan to file an application with Customs to have the trademark recorded on its database enabling Customs to seize counterfeits when it inspects imported or exported goods ex officio. The legal basis for this mechanism is rooted in the Regulations Governing Customs Measures in Protecting the Rights and Interests of Trademark, which is enacted pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article 78 of the Trademark Act.

XinhuaNet, October 10, 2017

South Korea's unification ministry on Tuesday urged the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) not to violate property rights owned by South Korean companies which had operated factories in the currently closed inter-Korean industrial complex.

The Economic Times, October 27, 2017

Seeking to achieve a "more balanced" trade relationship, the Trump administration has pressed India on key issues like market access, lifting of trade barriers and intellectual property protection. During the first US-India bilateral Trade Policy Forum (TPF) under the Trump administration which was attended by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu, India strongly differed with the American position on many of the contentious issues.


PRA

During a meeting in New Delhi last week, Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu announced how "extremely important" it is for India to protect intellectual property rights. Minister Prabhu noted that the Indian economy has undergone robust changes during recent decades and is now a leader in innovation and developing technologies.
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See also:

Thursday, November 02, 2017

BWorld 161, The sin of smuggling and corruption in the Sin tax law

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last October 23, 2017.


The intent or purpose of higher taxation is to further penalize an act, work, or consumption, hoping to discourage them by making their prices higher while giving government and lobbyists more freebies and more money.

The unintended result of higher taxation is to encourage illicit trade, production of cheaper but lower quality goods and services while giving the corrupt and extortionists in government more money.

Such may be the experience of the Sin Tax law of 2012 or RA 10351. It has raised lots of money for government, benefitted the universal health care program of DoH-PhilHealth while enriching the smugglers, illicit traders and their government protectors.

Revenues from sin tax has significantly increased in 2013, the first year of implementation of the law. Tobacco tax in particular has more than doubled from P32B in 2012 to P70B in 2013. Meanwhile, estimates of cigarettes smuggling have also increased from 35 million packs in 2012 to 40 million packs in 2013 (see table).


The CRC estimates are partly derived from the Oxford Economics report in 2016, “Asia: Illicit Tobacco Indicators 2015.”

The rise in smuggling and illicit trade of cigarettes is also shown by the haul of the BoC and BIR in raids in November 2016 in Bulacan, Pampanga and Pangasinan where more than P1 billion worth of illegally produced cigarettes and counterfeits were discovered. In Pangasinan alone, an illegal factory was raided, which led to the discovery of fake stamps and cigarette making/packing machines that can produce up to 3.6B cigarettes a year.

So claims by the government and advocates of RA 10351 that “8 million Filipinos have stopped smoking since the passage of the law” or “at least 70,000 smoking-related deaths have been averted since 2013” and similar pronouncements may not be true after all? Or are these numbers exaggerated?

The numbers in the table and the huge number of discovered smuggled cigarettes by government raids mean one thing — demand and consumption for tobacco products remained high despite the tax hike. Consumers simply shifted from higher-price to lower-price products, and from legal to illegal or informal sources of tobacco and alcohol products. Like lambanog and tuba.

I made an informal, verbal survey of some small sari-sari stores in a rice farming village in Bugallon, Pangasinan when I went there last month, accompanied by a local. I asked the store owners, “Has smoking and drinking incidence by the people declined, stayed about the same, or increased?”

They replied that they do not have the numbers but they observe that smoking and drinking incidence did not drop or decline. Poor people simply shifted to cheaper brands as new brands with cheap products like Mighty sprouted. The well-off continued patronizing the established higher-price brands despite the rise in prices, they simply reduced their smoking by several sticks a day.

For alcohol products, San Miguel beer is literally wiped out in poorer villages because of its higher price but the consumption of Ginebra, Emperador, Red Horse, and other products has remained the same if not increased. Drinkers usually start with the high alcohol drinks and before going home or elsewhere, they wind down to Red Horse.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao introduced Senate Bill 1599 that aims to increase the unitary excise tax on tobacco products from P30 to P60 per pack, and the annual increase be raised from 4% to 9%. His goal is to parrot the goals of the Sin tax law of 2012 — more money for government, less smoking incidence by the people.

Given the above numbers and facts on the ground, what the boxer-Senator would achieve if his bill becomes a law would be more illicit trade and more corruption in government while gaining more political pogi points for his political plans in 2022.

Instead of introducing another round of higher sin tax, legislators and executive agencies should focus on strictly implementing the existing law and plug loopholes. The proliferation of counterfeit products and stamps mean there is proliferation of corruption in government that allowed such things to happen for several years.

There is a limit to state nannyism and government intervention on how people should run their own lives. Government should limit its unlimited itch to tax-tax-tax, regulate-regulate-regulate, spend-spend-spend.
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See also:
BWorld 158, Why a carbon tax is wrong, October 16, 2017 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Energy 102, Germany's CDU/CSU and FDP rejecting the Greens' anti-coal agenda

I like the development in the new German government. #1 CDU getting closer with #4 FDP (Free Democratic Party) in climate and energy policies while potential partner #5 Greens go more idiotic and watermelon-ic (green outside, red inside) in demanding zero coal power. The Greens have more commonality with #2 SDP and #6 Linke (commies). CDU is correct -- if they follow the Greens for the sake of coalition-majority, #3 AfD will greatly benefit and further expand as AfD is explicitly anti-renewables alarmism and cronyism. Germany having 3rd highest electricity prices in the world might move to 2nd or 1st if the Greens-SDP agenda will prevail.

https://www.thegwpf.com/climate-policy-threatens-to-crash-german-coalition-negotiations/


“If coal plants are closed down in Eastern Germany and thousands of workers are made redundant, very soon 30% of voters will support the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD),” Laschet warned. ... Prime Minister Laschet announced that he would not make substantial concessions: “If push comes to shove we will have to crash the talks.” He said that environmental policy was a bigger hurdle for the negotiations than immigration policy: “The latter is easier to settle than the closure of power stations.”
(translated to English by The GWPF)

"Kellner reiterated the Greens’ position that Germany should quickly close coal-fired power stations to help fight climate change, a position resisted by the other parties." 
October 26, 2017.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-politics/german-coalition-talks-stumble-on-migration-climate-idUSKBN1CV1FZ

"While all parties agreed in principle this week that they want to uphold the Paris climate accord, the FDP is pressing for a commitment to curb government measures to promote renewable energy, which help make German power prices the second-highest in the European Union after Denmark’s.

“We certainly have to reduce carbon dioxide,” the FDP’s Suding said. “In Germany, this is much more expensive than in other countries and we have to find a way to reduce CO2 emissions more cheaply. Of course, there won’t be a complete phase-out of coal by 2030.”
October 27, 2017.


"According to Lindner (FDP):
The project of the century Energiewende [transition to green energies] has failed. None of the agreed targets will be reached. Climate protection is stalled, energy prices are rising and they are burdening us as electricity consumers, just as they are the industry and middle class. And not least of all it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee a secure power supply during the winter months.” 
http://notrickszone.com/2017/09/29/germanys-green-energy-project-close-to-death-eeg-feed-in-act-has-failed-has-to-go/#sthash.ZAheNnnr.RsV59Dyz.dpbs

It is good that both CDU/CSU and FDP are jointly resisting the deindustrialization goal of the Greens. One reason why AfD rocketed high to nearly 13% of the votes despite being created only 4 years ago is on the energy mini-suicide of the watermelon groups.
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See also:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

US economic growth of 3%, due to deregulation?

If we exclude the years 2008-09 because they were outliers (global financial upheaval), the Obama years seem to be the weakest since 1990. Never experienced growth of 3% or higher.


Early peek of the Trump admin first 3 Quarters of 2017, experienced 3% growth in the last 2 quarters (Q2 and Q3). 


Fastest 6-months growth since 2014, because of Trump or Yellen or something else? One of Financial Times' headlines today.

If the 3%+ is retained in Q4, it will be called the "fastest 9-months growth since ____".

This chart below could be one explanation -- US stocks growth the past year was rather fast compared to other major markets (China/Shanghai, Japan/Nikkei, Germany/DAX). 


The 2008-09 crash was a product of multi-decades of moral hazards problem in housing finance, not just 8 years of the Bush Jr. era.

A friend noted that "an institutional collapse like 2008 is followed by many years of slow growth and stagnation. The Philippines had the same experience from 1983 through the 90's. From 1991, Japan nearly had two decades of below-average growth."

Good points, he was arguing the slow growth momentum, which actually applied also to the rest of  G7 economies. But not to China, India, other Asian economies.

My hypothesis for the rather fast growth of the US economy in the last 2 quarters -- somehow a growth momentum due to some of his deregulation, de-bureaucratism policies. And the big tax cut plan, it's seeping into business decisions, big investments may be coming to the US from abroad and big investments in the US won't migrate to other countries anymore.
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See also: 
US and China stockmarkets, huge divergence, June 20, 2017 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

BWorld 160, A high carbon tax is irrational

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last October 19, 2017.


Political science masquerading as climate science insist that the gas that we humans and our animals exhale, the gas that is used by trees, flowers, fruits and other crops to grow and feed the world — carbon dioxide or CO2 — is a pollutant that must be over-taxed and over-regulated.

Far from the truth. CO2 is a useful gas, not a pollutant.

Since it is useful, the optimal carbon tax for coal in particular is not P10/ton, not P20, not P600, but zero. However, a zero tax on coal is unpopular from the world of climate alarmism, so we classify these tax rates as follows: P0 tax is optimal, P10/ton is rational, P20/ton is compromise, P600 is irrational.

Recently, eminent economist Dr. Ciel Habito made a follow-up paper, “The case for the carbon tax” and insist that the carbon tax for coal should be raised from the current P10/ton to P600/ton.

To support his claim, he used some ridiculous numbers that are peddled by the watermelon (green outside, red inside) movement. Here are two:

(1) “Dominated by CO2 (72%), GHGs trap heat… .”

Wrong. CO2 is 400 ppm or only 0.04% of all greenhouse gases (GHGs). About 95% of GHGs is water vapor — the clouds, evaporation from the seas, oceans, lakes, rivers, stomata of leaves, etc. The remaining 4%+ are methane, nitrous oxide, others.

(2) “CO2 averaged about 280 parts per million (ppm) for the last 10,000 years…In 2015… 400 ppm for the first time…. now triggering much more frequent extreme weather events.”

This is perhaps 5% geological science and 95% politics.

The Minoan, Roman, and Medieval Warm Periods (when there were no SUVs, no coal plants, no airplanes) were much warmer than the Modern Warm Period (mid-1800s to roughly 2000). There were wild swings in global warming and global cooling cycles regardless of the CO2 level. How would one call this — “much less frequent extreme weather events than today?” Garbage.

Climate change (CC) is true. All skeptics recognize climate change, recognize global warming. Planet Earth is 4.6 billion years old and there were climate change all those years because climate change is cyclical (warming-cooling-warming-cooling…) and natural. Global warming is true, and so is global cooling.

It is political science that masquerades as climate science to say that there is no climate cycle, that there is no global cooling that takes place after global warming.

BACK TO COAL POWER.
From the recent energy and economic experience of our neighbors in Asia and some industrial countries in the world, the hard lessons are these: (a) Countries that have coal consumption of at least 2.1x expansion over the past two decades are also those that experienced fast GDP growth of at least 3x expansion.

Prominent examples are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Pakistan. And (b) Philippines’ coal consumption is small compared to its neighbors; its 2016 use is just nearly 1/2 of Malaysia and Vietnam’s, just 1/3 of Taiwan’s and almost 1/5 of Indonesia’s, 1/6 of South Korea’s, 1/9 of Japan’s. (see table)


A high carbon tax is irrationalI have repeatedly argued that CO2 is a useful gas. For those who insist that CO2 is a pollutant, they can certainly help curb further CO2 emission even without legislation and carbon taxation through the following:

• Stop breathing too often; more exhalation means more CO2 emission.

• Stop adopting pets (if any), stop eating chicken, pork, meat because these animals exhale CO2.

• Stop using their cars, not even jeepneys or buses, they emit CO2; skateboards and bicycles only.

• Stop riding airplanes and motorized boats, they emit CO2; solar planes or big kites and sailboats only.

• Stop connecting from the grid and from Meralco because 48% of nationwide electricity generation comes from coal; no gensets either. Use only solar-wind-biomass + candles at home.

• Tell their friends, business associates, family members, to do the same so that there will be more people emitting less CO2.

The Habito proposal of more expensive electricity via P600/ton carbon tax on coal is dangerous because while the Senate version of TRAIN adopts a P20/ton excise tax, the P600 can spring up somewhere during the final and Bicameral Committee meeting. The proposal should be exposed as based on political science, not geological or climate science.
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See also:
BWorld 148, Energy Trilemma Index 2016, September 16, 2017 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

IPR and Innovation 38, Recent IP developments in some ASEAN countries

Property rights protection of both physical and non-physical/intellectual -- trademark/logo, copyright, patent, etc. -- is among the cornerstones of dynamic, mature and market-friendly economies. Individuals and enterprises develop new products and services via innovation and they create new value, new wealth for society.

I am reposting some developments on IPR in the ASEAN. Thanks to the Property Rights Alliance (PRA) for the bi-weekly IP updates.
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The Nation, October 02, 2017 

There's a role for intellectual property protection in the Thailand 4.0 vision and initiative, and the national government's Intellectual Property Department sees a role for itself promoting innovation through offering increased knowledge sharing and more convenient services.

"We are a key mechanism in protecting new technology and innovation vital to economic development, and we do this by motivating new developments," said Thosapone Dansuputra, director-general of the department.

Lexology, October 04, 2017

As of November 2017, Thailand will accede to the so-called Madrid Protocol as member no. 99. This entails cost savings compared to previously when trademark proprietors are to register their trademarks in Thailand. The Madrid Protocol is an international system through which trademark proprietors may apply for protection in several countries through one basic registration.

The Edge Markets, October 10, 2017 

Website blocking in Malaysia has significantly reduced online piracy, with a 74% fall in traffic to pirate websites recorded in the six months after the government initiated its sixth effort to block such sites in June 2016, says the Motion Picture Association (MPA). As pirate websites generate income through advertising revenue, a disruption to their business model can help stop online piracy, said Oliver Walsh, regional director at the Asia-Pacific hub for Motion Picture Association International (MPA-I).

XinhuaNet, September 19, 2017

The number of trademark registrations is lagging in Laos as many businesses lack understanding of their rights and fail to register to protect their intellectual property, according to the Intellectual Property (IP) Department under Ministry of Science and Technology on Monday.

PRA, October 6, 2017 

According to a study by the Intellectual Property (IP) Department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, only about 40,500 trademark applications have been filed in the Southeast Asian country since 1991. This is a relatively low number of applications for trademark protections for a country of 7 million and an economy with a GDP of $37.3 billion.

Lexology, October 11, 2017

On August 28, 2017, the Brunei Intellectual Property Office (BruIPO) signed an agreement to introduce a new patent examination initiative - the Patent Prosecution Highway Plus (PPH+) - with the Japan Patent Office (JPO), which commenced on October 1, 2017. Using this PPH+ system, patent prosecution procedures in Brunei are accelerated by allowing BruIPO to reuse the search and examination results of corresponding patent applications filed in Japan - thus reducing examination workload and time, minimizing costs, and improving patent quality.
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Lion Rock 22, Hong Kong's early policies on free trade, zero income tax

I like this article by a friend since 2004, Andrew Pak Man Shuen, Director and Co-Founder of the Lion Rock Institute in Hong Kong. I thought it was Sir John Cowperthwaite who was the first engineer of HK free trade policy. Reposting, did not include the first four paragraphs. Photo I got from wiki.
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13/09/2017
THE CONSERVATIVE | June 2017 | Issue 4 | Andrew Pak Man Shuen

… Sir Henry Pottinger was our first colonial governor. After the Opium War, he turned Hong Kong into an outpost of the British Empire so distant that Victorian parents would threaten to send unruly children there as a punishment.

He laid out the three basic governing tenets of Hong Kong. The first was that there must be no direct taxes: government revenue would come from land leases, licensing fees etc. The second was to “respect local customs”. Finally, Hong Kong would allow free trade, including with the enemies of the British Empire.

From the perspective of the 21st century, it is easy to conclude that Potting must have been a liberal. No direct taxes. Multiculturalism. Free trade. And all for a city built on commerce.

But, before celebrating, we must bear in mind that Pottinger was a hard-nosed colonialist. He and his colleagues had no qualms about butchering the “yellow peril” as they barrelled into Qing-dynasty China.

So why those three seemingly enlightened tenets? Remember that this was before the telegraph and the Suez Canal. Britain was not all that keen to hold a colony that was not only far away but surrounded by hostile powers. London sent the message to Potting that he would not be receiving much in the way of manpower or budget.

Hence it was out of realpolitik that Potting embraced those principles. First, the collection of direct taxes is extremely labour-intensive; without them, he could manage with a much smaller civil service. Second, although the Chinese of that era engaged in polygamy, female pedal mutilation and (perhaps most objectionable to the British) eating dogs, Pottinger knew that he was in no position to engage in mass behaviour-modification. If everything the Chinese were doing was allowed to stay legal, the police force could remain small and still be effective in the protection of property rights.

The decision to make Hong Kong a true free port where even the enemies of the British Empire could trade was a master-stroke. Pottinger understood that the colony would be hard to defend with military force.

To sail from Plymouth, the home port of the South China Sea fleet, round the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, through the Malacca Straits and then up the South China Sea was a logistical nightmare even in peacetime.

However, Pottinger also knew that, as Hong Kong possessed no natural resources to be pillaged, together with the fact that attacking any part of the British Empire would incur a cost for the invader, any assault must be part of a grander strategy for an invader in search of a prize other than this colonial outpost. If the would-be invader discovered that they could purchase whatever they coveted from Hong Kong, it was not worth the effort.

This explains what happened during the Korean War. The British colonial administration must have known about the smuggling activities of Henry Fok, who was transporting massive resources to Communist China. The latter had been placed by the United Nations under a total trade embargo. This meant that free-trade colony under British control was a lifeline for Mao, and far more useful than a Chinese-ruled Hong Kong.

As a result, Hong Kong remained British until 1997 – that is, 50 years longer than India. Its sovereignty was preserved because the power most likely to invade was protecting it. This makes Pottinger look like a geopolitical genius.

Of course, Hong Kong’s sovereignty did change hands once before 1997. In 1941, Japan invaded as it simultaneously rained bombs on Pearl Harbour, and we surrendered in three weeks. If Pottinger’s adoption of free trade was such a master-stroke, how come Hong Kong fell to the Imperial Japanese?

Next to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates the war dead, there is a museum that is basically an attempt by the Japanese to explain what they did. One word is crucial: oil.

According to Pottinger’s theory, if the Japanese could have bought oil through Hong Kong, the Pacific War with the Allied forces might have been averted. Of course, this also means that Hitler would have never declared war on America. And that was not what Churchill wanted. That raises the question of why Hong Kong uncharacteristically participated in the oil embargo and suffered invasion – but we can leave that discussion for another day.

To conclude, the logic of “when goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will” that underpinned the Treaty of Rome was on full display in Hong Kong. Peace and sovereignty flow from the fountain of authentic free trade, even in the absence of soldiers and Ian Fleming’s secret agents. And, of course, there is another consequence of authentic free trade, which is massive and widely shared prosperity. That is also on full display in Hong Kong.
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See also: 
Lion Rock 19, Not enough capitalism in Hong Kong, May 12, 2016 

Lion Rock 20, Hong Kong's labor welfarism and rising unemployment, July 08, 2016 

Lion Rock 21, Dangers of Universal basic income (UBI) philosophy, August 11, 2017 
Hong Kong and John Cowperthwaite, Part 2, October 09, 2017