For those not living in HK it might seem a wonder why there is so much angst over this. Here's a mini-link fest to show you what others and I are talking about: here, here, here, here, here and my own here and here. It's a lame little festival, hurriedly and poorly organised. If it was a private matter then it would be laughable and a little sad but nothing more.
But it is not. The HK Government has invested HK$100 million subsidising it. That's almost US$13 million of taxpayer money supporting a music festival that in large part only interests the expat community. The Government is in a fiscal mess and can still find the dollars for this shlamozel. The festival is organised by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham). Not a professional events organiser or music promoter, but a Chamber of Commerce. They knocked the whole thing together in 3 months with no prior experience and it is showing.
Today it has gone from bad to worse. According to this article inThe Standard:
The company designated by the American Chamber of Commerce to run the Harbour Fest is owned by its chairman, Jim Thompson, and his wife, a company search shows. The company designated by the American Chamber of Commerce to run the Harbour Fest is owned by its chairman, Jim Thompson, and his wife, a company search shows.
This is the company that has the contract for this festival for the next 5 years. No details yet if the HK Government intends to keep giving the subsidy.
Let's list the issues here:
1. A massive taxpayer subsidy to a private organisation with no discernable benefit for Hong Kong (unless you count bad publicity)
2. The lack of corporate governance at AmCham to allow its president to personally control the company running the festival. There are massive conflict-of-interest issues as well as probity issues. Will the accounts be audited and made public? If taxpayer's money is involved they should be.
3. The lack of control on the HK Government's part. The simply gifted HK$100mm to this without any checks or control.
4. The continuing lack of any pressure from the HK Government. Are they happy to see the money wasted like this? They owe nothing to the AmCham - why not start an investigation into the whole debacle.
5. The lack of accountability. The buck really stops with AmCham, but as a private organisation they can remain somewhat immune to pressure. The Government doesn't seem to have struck a contract the demands AmCham to take full responsbility for the festival and its consequences.
No doubt there are more issues but I cannot be bothered going on. It is a true scandal of the highest order and thankfully the press and public are not putting up with it. The new found voice of public opinion is again being heard in HK.
Imagine this happening in a country such as Australia or a state like California. The outcry and outrage would be deafening.
I hope that something comes of all of this.