Policy wonk digest: Hong Kong

  • Tap water is generally drinkable in Hong Kong. Where there are problems it isn’t with the city owned infrastructure, but the systems in some aging apartment buildings where the metal piping is degrading into the water supply. The apartment systems aren’t regulated, but, as an alternative, the government offers to certify the health of the water in any given apartment, giving it a grading.
  • Mass rapid transit profitability is commonly measured by the farebox recovery ratio, the percentage of operating costs that are covered by revenue from ticket sales. Most systems have a ratio under 100% and therefore need some kind of subsidy to survive. Not Hong Kong’s MTR. It has a ratio of 186% making it one of the most profitable in the world.
  • The MTR also offers a free $2HKD top up if you swipe your octopus card at machines  dotted around the city. This seemed a strange freebie until I learned that the locations of the free top up machines are in areas where MTR travel isn’t very convenient like between stations or halfway up a massive escalator system. The free top ups are designed to get you to take the MTR nonetheless.
  • Hong Kong is not known for its welfare state. But if you’re on a low income they will help with your travel costs. It’s called the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy Scheme and it’s the very most they’re prepared to do.
  • Hong Kong’s immigration policies must be some of the most liberal in the world. Folks from a staggering 170 countries can get a visa on arrival. 58 countries get the same treatment in New Zealand. An offer of employment seems to be broadly sufficient to get a working visa.
  • Anecdotally, competition for places in good schools means kids are registered for kindergarten before they’re born and go through their first interviews and testing (without their parents present) at about the age of two.

2 thoughts on “Policy wonk digest: Hong Kong

    1. Yea. I’m really gutted we didn’t get to the museum in the end and we’re off to the mainland today.
      It’s a pretty classic case of what is and isn’t counted as welfare. There’s a video floating around on the internet somewhere which has a Berkeley economics professor talking about how she gets welfare through the tax credits she gets when paying her mortgage. She lives in public housing, she says.

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