How do you feel about being a well-known commentator on economic issues?
Shortly after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, I published an article on the then current economy in a newspaper. Since then, invitations to comment from various media have never stopped. I never said no. It’s my wish to serve the community by offering my expertise, analysis and suggestions. It is no easy task, however, as I have to keep up with the times and the most updated economic data.
Apart from academic papers, you write blogs and general books on both economics and everyday life. Why?
Economics can be applied to every aspect of our daily life. It’s a discipline that studies the changes in human behaviour and society. Researchers should be at the cutting edge to understand the social development. By writing and publishing, I do not only render economic knowledge to the public, but also fulfill my goal of life, that is, ‘live to the full’. So, why not?
You are also active in public service. How do you find time for it?
I work really hard. I slept no more than three hours a day since my secondary school days until obtaining my doctorate degree. Though I sleep a bit more now, I still work 17 to 18 hours a day. But time is never enough. I am fully committed now until June.
Professor, researcher, economic commentator, writer, public service. Do the satisfactions differ?
The greatest satisfaction for a teacher is to nurture outstanding students. A researcher is happiest when he becomes the first one in the world to get to a research finding. I published my first academic paper when I was a doctoral student. My scholarly output has been pretty steady since and I am recognized internationally. The roles of commentator and writer give me a platform to speak out against social injustice. Public service is the means by which I pay back to society.
You once gave your view on how young people could become homeowners. Any amended view with Hong Kong housing still among the world’s least affordable?
The median monthly salary of university graduates is HK$10,000+. It’s unrealistic to think of buying a home worth HK$7–8 million simply by savings. They should think out of the box. Being employed is not the only way out. Young people could re-examine their skills and the market’s need for such skills. Money isn’t the only thing that matters in life. What I want to say is that getting a job doesn’t mean getting rich. The mismatch between skill and market may explain poverty on the job. I also suggest young people to view the Greater Bay Area as an opportunity. The best from the area can come to Hong Kong, and vice versa. The Hong Kong market is after all too small.
What is the right age to start personal financial management?
It could start as early as grade three when children can do simple arithmetic. They should be made aware that making money is not easy and that they should treasure what they earn. Learning through activities has been proved effective. For example, giving a budget to children for organizing a birthday party. If they managed to cut the budget, they will be awarded with a sum matching what they have saved. In this way they would be encouraged to shop around, look for the lowest price and cut unnecessary expenditure. Isn’t it a learning process?
This article was originally published in No. 535, Newsletter in Apr 2019.