The gambling capital of the world

March 19th, 2014 atam Posted in Culture, General | No Comments »

Think this is an article about Macau? Wrong.

You may think that, given the betting turnover at the casinos, Macau must qualify for that title hands down. You would be wrong though, because Hong Kong beats its neighbour without the need for any casinos at all.

Now you may wonder: am I referring to the amount Hong Kong people bet on horse races and football matches? Sorry, wrong again.

Hong Kong folks are in fact betting on stocks and properties, but of course the usual euphemism for that is ‘investing’. The ordinary people I know don’t look at it that way though; they are well aware that they are gambling – out of necessity.

This came to me when a friend, a former clerical worker forced to retire early some years ago, revealed that she actively plays the stock market in order to make ends meet. She doesn’t play the market because she is greedy, so she hasn’t been lured into any disastrous get-rich-quick funds. She is basically forced to play the stock market in order to beat inflation and put food on the table. The little money she was able to save as a clerk would never have lasted very long had she not taken a gamble with it by putting some in dividend-yielding shares and some in volatile stocks that can yield a quick profit if she gets the swing right.

So there you have it: our stock market is buoyant thanks to desperate Hong Kongers who have no other way to keep going. They’re not mired in poverty, but they have to risk losing their shirts to get by. The fruit seller just told me bananas have gone up by HK$3 per pound; with this kind of inflation, who can afford to rely on a little savings parked in the bank with next-to-no interest?

Another revelation came when another friend said she came by her leisurely life through property trading. She’s not greedy either, and is not speculating to make big bucks out of the property market while edging out the long queue of prospective homeowners. She’s just astutely trading her way up the property market, accumulating enough spare cash along the way to live a comfortable life without working. This has enabled her to spend time on charitable work, which surely is more rewarding than the false productivity that contributes to a nice GDP figure but not personal growth or health.

In a place where homes are affordable and there is fulfilling work on offer, people wouldn’t have to gamble as a way of life. And if this is the kind of economic activity that keeps Hong Kong ticking, do you think this city has all that bright a future?

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