Friday, December 7, 2007

Spoiled by the Ambassador

Mo bholg hasn't been so distended since arriving in China and I owe it all to the Irish exchequer.
Last night, Lady Liz and I attended the Irish Ambassador's Christmas party where we ate, drank and were merry. Turkey, ham, salmon, lamb, stuffing and all sorts of weird but wonderful salad stuff were on offer. I accepted gladly.
I was surprised, nay disappointed, not to find a large keg of Guinness and a pyramid tower of Ferrero Rocher but I restrained my complaints.
They really spoiled us by unveiling a trad band who whipped up a seisiun, complete with a bit of dancing and a dose of sean nos.
At one point some young one in an emerald guna wheeled out a harp and attempted to induce tears from the homesick crowd.
Not sure I've been here long enough to complain about missing the island. And anyway, you only get that sort of diddly-aye in Temple Bar.
The expat scene is a bit of a clique and we are relative newbies. It's a bit like arriving to a Spanish resort on a Tuesday when everybody else has been settled since Saturday. The all seem to know everyone and everything, even though they're only off the plane.
Tonight, we're heading into town to meet His Ambassadorness once more. This time, the man himself is formally opening Beijing's newest Irish bar - Paddy O'Shea's.
We took the time to sample this bar a few weeks ago with Martin, ChengCheng and Walker, and can confirm that it has a snug, plays Thin Lizzy albums and boasts a bevy of Chinese waitresses - it's like a lot of Dublin pubs.
Tough life being a diplomat. I can't complain though given my willingness to join the Foreign Affairs bandwagon two nights running.
It struck me last night that it must cost a fortune to have so many embassies entertaining eejits like us across the globe. There's never any mention of it in the budget. 'And to think the poor kids in Adamstown have no chalk,' I thought to myself as the roast lamb melted in my mouth last night.
But as Martin pointed out, investment in international diplomacy is decent value. 'Sure we haven't had a war in years...'
I'll drink to that.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Poor rich foreigners

China Daily tells an amusing story in its December 3rd issue. Apparently expats in Beijing and Shanghai are feeling the pinch as food prices soar.
As mentioned previously, the cost of basics like bread and haircuts are shooting up as inflation hit 6.5% last month.
According to the article (see below) this is hitting expats hardest and some are struggling to maintain their 'lifestyle'. Boo frickin' hoo.
Executives whose fat salary and benefits packages are paid in dollars are worst off. Should somebody organise a whip around for the poor bastards?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Price of progress

The price of food in Beijing is soaring as the Chinese - and a few hungry expats - demand more and more breads and dairy products, not to mention luxury products.
Inflation in October was 6.5%, which is significantly ahead of wage increases.
You can see it in the local supermarket. A loaf of bread which cost 3 kuai (30 Euro cent) last August, went up to 4 kuai in October.
Then the size of the loaf got smaller! That made it about 25% smaller but 33% more expensive.
This month, it went up again to 5 kuai. It doesn't leave me on the proverbial breadline but you can imagine the impact on ordinary Chinese people.
As if that wasn't bad enough, I notice my morning yogurt was runnier than usual today. Are they now watering down the yogurt?!
For those beyond the borders of the world's most populous nation, the surging demand in China has knock-on effects for the rest of the world. The more bread they consume, the higher prices you'll see on supermarket shelves from Dublin to Durban.
So dramatic is the increase in prices in Beijing that it's hard to imagine it won't spark unrest sooner or later.
In August, the Government did a deal with meat producers after pork prices rose 43%. A similar intervention may be in the offing if Beijing's bureaucrats want to preserve the harmony they speak of so fondly.
When bread and meat (and yogurt!) become too expensive for ordinary people it usually spells social problems.
Then again, you can always let them eat cake.