Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

Lion Rock – Hong Kong Internship

Week 6 Blog- Samantha Denford

mannkal, 14 February 2014

As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. That is exactly how I feel about leaving Hong Kong. During my last week at the Lion Rock office I have had a variety of tasks. Early in the week I wrote a Letter to the Editor to the South China Morning Post. This was in support of two policies that the Chief Executive announced in the 2014 Policy Address last week. One policy is supporting exceptional students to study abroad and the other is relaxing requirements which foreign trained doctors have to achieve in order to practice in Hong Kong.

I have also spent some time early in the week researching an American Historian named Ian Morris who visited Mannkal. In one of his most prominent books, Why the Wet Rules, For Now, Ian Morris traces the history of eastern or western dominance and predicts that before the turn of the 22nd century, the east will dominate. He visited Hong Kong to get an insight into Hong Kong’s role in eastern dominance because of its close proximity to China. Some of the Lion Rock staff and myself met with him to discuss these issues over coffee.

My time at Lion Rock and in Hong Kong has sadly come to an end! On one of my last evenings here, I returned to the peak, to get one last look at the beautiful Hong Kong skyline. After one last work dinner at a lovely Chinese restaurant on Friday night, I returned to Perth over the weekend.

This has been an invaluable experience, both living in Hong Kong and interning at the Lion Rock Institute. I would like to thank everyone at Lion Rock for having me over the last eight weeks, the staff taking time out of their hectic schedules to mentor me and teach me not only about the free market but about advocacy. I would also like to thank everyone at Mannkal for this opportunity, one which would not have been possible to experience just by attending university or reading books. I aspire to advocate the free market and libertarian ideals back in Perth and take the knowledge and experience I have gained from living and working in Hong Kong to be the prime example of why such ideals are beneficial.

Week 5 Blog- Samantha Denford

mannkal, 1 February 2014

Though it is a tough category, I would have to say that this week has been my best yet. Early in the week I was invited to attend the Asian Financial Forum. This year’s forum was structured around the central concept of Asia powering world growth. Both of the Keynote Luncheons were a highlight of the forum. The first speech was given by Dr Alan Bollard. He is currently the Executive Director of APEC Secretariat and was formally the Reserve Bank Governor for New Zealand. The second was delivered by Timothy Geithner, the former United States Secretary of the Treasury (2009-2013). Though I do not entirely agree with Mr Geithner’s policy positions, he provided an engaging, intelligent and witty Keynote Luncheon. The most memorable experience outside of lunch had to be listening to Dr Achleitner, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank, defending the role of finance. He aimed to rebut the common view that finance leaches off other sectors and is not a legitimate source of growth in itself. Dr Achleitner concluded by remarking that without finance, we would not have ever made it out of subsistence.

Asian Financial Forum

Later in the week I was invited to attend a forum about the Chinese Economy hosted by the Hong Kong Institute of Monetary Research (HKIMR).  The conference concerned China’s aim to deregulate factor markets and eventually move to a market based economy. This included speeches about interest rate and capital account deregulation, and macroeconomic consequences in the long term of China’s success or failure of their deregulation agenda. Participants ranged from people within the HKIMR and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to people from institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, IBS and OECD and a general class of academia from institutions around the world. The highlight of this conference was the last event, which was a panel discussion on the reform implementation and its macroeconomic consequences. This is highly relevant to Australia and something we need to pay close attention to given our level of reliance on China’s continued prosperity.

This week has been an incredible experience for me and one which I would not have been able to gain from university or even in Australia. Having a better knowledge of the Asia Pacific region is paramount to Australia; I hope to be able to share my experience and the things I have learnt upon my return.

Ladies markets in Mong Kok

Over the weekend I took it a bit easier after my hectic week, I explored my surrounds. This included my first ride on the travelator. This is a series of escalators going up a hill in Hong Kong which is commonly used to commute.  I also visited some markets in Mong Kok, this is the best way to get a true appreciation of the Chinese side of Hong Kong with fully barter based markets.

Week 4 Blog- Samantha Denford

mannkal, 13 January 2014

Since my last blog I have now experienced my first cold Christmas! Despite being away from home and not boiling hot, Christmas was great. For a city that does not traditionally celebrate the holiday, god do they put on a spectacle! From Christmas lights to Christmas carols, Hong Kong has everything. The Lion Rock office has been closed over Christmas and New Years so this gave me some extra time to explore Hong Kong. Over my break, my mum came to Hong Kong for a holiday. We went to Disneyland, Ocean Park and more shopping centres than I can count! Disneyland would be the highlight for me; I let out my inner child and had one of the best days of my life!

Disneyland

I returned to the office after the break to one of the director’s, Peter, enthusiastically informing me that Lion Rock has been granted funding for school talks, a proposal I helped him draft before Christmas. This was great news and it was infinitely satisfying that the work I have done during my internship is actually going to make a difference in campaigning for free markets and libertarianism here in Hong Kong.

On the work front this week it has been a little slower, which was a nice change. I have mostly been assisting the Lion Rock team in putting together their next addition of the publication, Capitalism.HK. This includes articles from the Chairman, Bill Stacey and one of the directors, Peter Wong and I have also been able to contribute an article of my own! My article discusses how imposing ‘incentives’ supposedly in the name of gender equality to encourage female participation in the labour force, is fundamentally a sexist policy; a policy which flies in the face of feminism, individualism and self determination.

I had a relatively quiet weekend, I visited the Avenue of Stars, this is on Kowloon and looks over to the skyline of Hong Kong island. The view is spectacular. I arrived here by taking the Star Ferry, though it takes longer than the MTR, the views are much better than the underground train! Next week I will be attending the Asian Financial Forum and visiting the Hong Kong Institute of Monetary Research, where they are conducting a forum on the Chinese Economy. I am extremely excited as I believe both events will be highlights of my trip.

Star Ferry

Week 3 Blog- Samantha Denford

mannkal, 2 January 2014

I cannot believe I have already been here three weeks, where has the time gone? This week was packed with work and social outings. On the work front, earlier in the week I delivered my deputations in LegCo, firstly on municipal solid waste charging and secondly on the retirement age. The first got a less than favourable response by the government but that was expected as the angle we pursued in the deputation concerned their incompetence. For the rest of the week my tasks were varied. I edited an article of my own, which is going to be published in Capitalism.HK. I helped Peter, one of the directors, in preparing a proposal for a grant to fund school talks which Lion Rock wants to conduct and I prepared my fourth speech which I will deliver to LegCo on Monday.

On the social side of things I have also been busy. Monday night was our Christmas party hosted by one of the members of Lion Rock. It was a traditional Chinese meal which meant that my western palette got a workout trying new things; the food was phenomenal, infinitely better than the Chinese food you get in Australia. On Wednesday, I met for lunch with the chairman of the Lion Rock Institute, Bill Stacey. We made sure to catch each other for lunch before he flew to Australia for Christmas.  Wednesday night I attended Happy Valley Racecourse. On a tip from Janice, one of the other interns, I won on my first bet! I made it my last so I remained up for the night. As Andrew is a member of Happy Valley Racecourse we ate in the members’ restaurant with the food, the company and the views all contributing to a great night.

On the weekend I took the plunge and went to explore another area of Hong Kong, Kowloon. This required me to take the MTR underwater, a new experience for me! I ventured into a few shopping centres as well as finding some markets. Kowloon is a lot more touristy than Hong Kong island so I fitted right in when I inevitably got lost.

Week 2 Blog- Samantha Denford

mannkal, 16 December 2013

My second week at the Lion Rock Institute was as fast passed and vibrant as Hong Kong itself! I began on Monday by delivering my address to LegCo on the women’s employment consultation. Though a nerve-racking experience, it was incredibly rewarding and I feel people may have actually listened. After hearing trade unions and women’s groups campaign for labour market frictions supposedly in the name of encouraging women’s employment for about two hours, I was a lone voice in discouraging such restrictive procedures and in true libertarian style, campaigning for self-determination.

Next week I will be going to parliament for two consultations; the first on Monday for the municipal solid waste charging, and the second on Tuesday for the extension of the retirement age. The Lion Rock Institute vehemently opposes the former and wants the government to address the underlying issues in the latter. In regards to the retirement age consultation, the Lion Rock Institute sees the consultation merely as a way of dressing up the fact that the welfare structure in place is unsustainable on the current population trajectory; it is a much wider issue than simply retirement age. I have also started to help put together the latest edition of a publication called Capitalism.HK.

I must caution, for the supposedly freest city in the world, they are facing an uphill battle with an unpopular government’s socialist agenda. Thank god think tanks such as the Lion Rock Institute and many others are around attempting to curb this trend!

Week 1 Blog- Samantha Denford

mannkal, 9 December 2013

To describe Hong Kong in a sentence is impossible. It is chaotic, noisy and borderline insane, but I have fallen completely in love with it even though I have only been here a week. After my flight from Perth, I arrived in the city the Heritage Foundation named the freest in the world. Hong Kong is the pinnacle of efficiency, even going through the customs process and taxi rank takes a fraction of the time that it does in Perth, and that is with a multitude of extra people.

My first week at the Lion Rock Institute has been hectic, fast paced and incredibly stimulating. My activities have ranged from listening to Andrew, one of the co-founders and directors, provide an incredibly interesting lesson comparing monetary policy and marriage to how to craft a message in order to be an effective advocate. I spent the latter part of the week and part of my weekend crafting a speech that I will deliver to the Hong Kong Legislative Council or LegCo on Monday. My speech concerns female employment in Hong Kong and trying to persuade the government not to enact market frictions supposedly in the name of encouraging homemakers into work. This is part of a broader study in Hong Kong attempting to tackle the fact that the workforce is set to peak in 2018, as more people begin to retire each year than enter the job market.

The Peak

In my free time over the weekend I have visited the Peak, a viewpoint of the entire Hong Kong skyline, and at least in my experience, the most beautiful place on earth. I have also managed to get in a bit of shopping and general exploring. I am trying to soak up as much of Hong Kong as I can.

City Skyline

Week 3 Blog – Helen Li

admin, 5 August 2013

Dear All,

My final week at the Lion Rock office has been filled with great company, great food and great fun. Although it has been challenging at some points, this week we see the final product of all of our hard work, with our event finally being showcased. On Wednesday night, we gathered around to celebrate the 101st Birthday of the late Milton Friedman. With three guest speakers and a new record of guests, everybody bonded over food and drinks as the speakers spoke of the influence of Friedman. It was then that we united to revive the importance of his message today and how vital and crucial it was to keep his ideas alive.

On the Thursday, I was very lucky to be able to take one of the guest speakers (Yuliya Kocherhan) out and show her a bit of Hong Kong. Through traditional dishes like Dim Sum and a feel for capitalism in Hong Kong through the markets we were able to have a very enjoyable day. Unfortunately that day, the weather was not in our favour as most things closed or were discontinued due to a typhoon signal 3. However, we managed to make it to the peak and enjoy the spectacular view that is Hong Kong.

On the last day of my internship, it was still hard work as we prepared for the last event of the week ‘Luncheon with Ron Manners’.  The lunch was conducted in a small intimate setting where Ron was to talk about Australia’s Mining. With the great variety of guest and their dynamic personalities, the topics ranged from mining, economics, and politics to current affairs. It is within no doubt, that everybody had an enjoyable time and this was a great end to my internship.

This internship has taught me more than any textbook could teach me and I thank the Lion Rock Institute from the bottom of my heart. With their quirky personalities and unforgettable moments, I would like to thank them for using their own time to help me learn and cultivate my passion for the free market. It is not within our own vested interests, but for our passion for a free market that helps keeps these ideas stay alive and I thank them for nurturing and developing this. It is due to this that the LRI will always be a reminder as well as an inspiration for the importance of my ideas. In addition, I would also like to extend my thank you to Mannkal and especially Ron Manners for giving me an opportunity that could not be attained elsewhere. This life changing experience has helped me understand the challenges that modern libertarians face as well as the impact created by keeping their values alive. I hope that the lessons I have learned here will help me continue to fight for liberty and freedom back home in Australia, and I will never forget this experience as I continue this fight as a freedom fighter.

Week 2 Blog – Helen Le

admin, 29 July 2013

This week, the Lion Rock Institute has kept me busy with various things to do. I started the week by continuing to plan the “2013 Friedman Legacy Cocktail”. Here, I was able to visit the venue and make arrangements for the night, which has been very fun and interesting.

This Friday, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to speak at Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. The Legislative Council (LegCo) is essentially Hong Kong’s parliament. I was able to speak on behalf of the Lion Rock Institute at a committee meeting on how Private Driving Instructor’ Licences will be issued.

Currently, there is a restriction to the amount of Private Driving Instructor (PDI) licences available as well as a shortage in three different categories of group vehicles. The committee meeting had members of the public, PDIs with different group vehicle licences, as well as those with Restricted Driving Instructor Licences all wanting to know, who should be granted the right or priority to attain these PDI’s. After speaking to my Lion Rock colleagues, it was clear that the answer did not lie in priority, but to lift the restriction on the number of PDI’s available altogether.

Although nerve-racking, this was an invaluable experience. After I had made my speech, a member of the legislative council had mentioned an aspect of my speech into his own and imposed the same questions I had. It was such an amazing feeling to hear your work being heard and incorporated.

Outside of work, I was able to have lunch with Kim Rooney, a Hong Kong barrister and international arbitrator. Originally from Perth, Kim gave me a great insight to life in Hong Kong. With a bit of free advice, she reminded me how important it was to do what you love, in a place that you love. She also gave me an interesting insight into the law and business in Hong Kong. In addition, I have been experimenting with all the different foods available from a typical Local dinner to the all time favourite here, Japanese.

Week 1 Blog – Helen Le

mannkal, 19 July 2013

Milton Friedman once said ‘If you want to see capitalism in action, go to Hong Kong’.

The view from Star Ferry

After getting off my flight, I found myself in the city that Heritage Foundation named the world’s freest economic city. Within the first couple of hours upon my arrival, I was able to see that efficiency in Hong Kong was an experience that could not be properly portrayed in a textbook. With a population of over 7 million people spread amongst a landmass of 1,104 square kilometers, there was little time, space and energy wasted in this fast-paced, dynamic city. From transport, food and banking matters, everything was done with accuracy and efficiency.

My first week in the Lion Rock office has been dynamic, busy, yet completely interesting. Walking into an office filled with both brilliance and passion, I found myself being welcomed with opened arms. Within this first week I was able to witness the Lion Rock’s work in action, as they protested for the abolishment of Stamp Duties in Victoria Park’s Football Ground. Standing in the mist of thousands, I soon came to realize the continuing importance of advocating for the continued ‘freedom’ in Hong Kong.

Protesting for the abolishment of Stamp Duties

In the office, I have been busy helping in the preparation and planning for the upcoming ‘2013 Friedman Legacy Cocktail’, an event celebrating what would be, the 101st Birthday of the late Milton Friedman. In addition, the Lion Rock team and I have began to finish editing and finalizing the Institute’s monthly newsletter. This week has given me various insightful talks and lessons from two of Lion Rock’s co-founders and directors, Andrew Shuen and Simon Lee. Throughout the week Andrew provided me with an insight to the power of effective communication whilst Simon gave me a lesson on Hong Kong’s history, allowing me to understand and compare the way the economy has changed since the handover.

Outside of work, I have been very lucky to join the other interns to watch the final horse race of the season whilst having dinner at the prestigious Hong Kong Jockey Club at the Happy Valley Race Course. Fortunately, Andrew Sheun is a member of the club we were able to get a table in the owners room for dinner. With the great atmosphere, the delicious authentic Chinese cuisine being served and great company, this was an experience that was both incredible and unique.

Happy Valley Race Course

Happy Valley Race Course - (Left is me, centre is Kellie Wong and Right is Janice Fung)

Week 5 Blog – Conrad Karageorge

mannkal, 24 January 2013

Dear readers,

I’m currently sitting in the bar downstairs from my apartment, ready to write the final blog documenting my internship here in Hong Kong. I still can’t believe it’s been just six short weeks since I sat down in this very same bar to pen my very first blog about my experiences here.

During this time I have learnt so much in my adopted city-state home. The Lion Rock Institute provided me with the opportunity to experience economics in action. I learnt that economic principles are only as good as your ability to sell them to the public, a public who has never taken a micro-economics course, has never heard of the term subsidy and cannot grasp the concept of competition.  I was taught how to craft and present this message to that public. The think-tank taught me how to present a message through focusing on the victim, the person who will be harmed by the failure to adhere to the correct economic policy, and thus convince the public to adopt your point of view. I learnt that at an economic think-tank you are not attempting to sell your ideas to the atheist, the person who has already formed the opposite opinion to you, but rather you are preaching to the agnostic. You must always pitch your ideas to the undecided vote, the member of the public who does not know what to think of an economic policy, these people are seeking information, they are seeking your point of view. These skills have been invaluable to me and I cannot thank the Lion Rock team enough for their support and teaching during my internship.

However I believe the most important thing I learnt from studying the Hong Kong economy is that freedom is not an enduring and impenetrable quality. Hong Kong is currently experiencing this risk at the moment. While the former British colony is still ranked the most free in the world, the Hong Kong government has been steadily destabilising this freedom since the handover to communist China. Although I believe that this problem is not confined to Hong Kong alone and other governments around the world are experiencing this slow cooked servitude. While governments no longer lose their freedom overnight with the advent of revolution, the risk of authoritarian government is no less possible. Ronald Regan once said that ‘freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction’ and that statement seems more relevant now than ever.  

Economic freedom in a modern western society is not instantly destabilised, it is slowly waned away, one piece of legislation at a time, and I have experienced this concept during my stay here. This is the reason why think-tanks such as Lion Rock are so integral to a modern democracy, because the public is never aware of the changes to their economic freedom until it is too late, until the prosperity and freedom they once experienced has been taken away. The Lion Rock’s mission is to ensure that the citizens of Hong Kong realise the prosperity that the free-market has given them, and of the consequences of taking that freedom away.

And what can I say of my six weeks here with the Lion Rock Institute? That I have enjoyed the experience immensely, what I have learnt about economics here I could not have found in any website or textbook.  I have had experiences here I could not look up in any Lonely planet or National geographic magazine and I have found a place that for six short weeks, I could call home. I now think of Hong Kong as one of the best cities in the world, from its politics to its nightlife, the people seem to carry with them a vibrant rich culture, which in my past two months living here I seem to have barely scratched it’s surface. I have thoroughly enjoyed my internship and would recommend the experience to any student interested in an east-meets west culture and a desire to experience economics in practice. I’d like to thank the whole Lion Rock team for being so supportive during my stay here, as well Ron Manners and Mannkal for organising such a great internship.