What you could do with HK$624 billion

The government announces its official estimated cost for the Lantau Tomorrow Mega-Vision Reclamation Concept. The sum is absurdly precise – why 624 billion, as opposed to 625, 620 or 630? Or 600-700?

The South China Morning Post calculates that you could buy two-and-a-half Li Ka-shings or 160 hospitals for this money. Such redundant alternatives risk making the reclamation look like a relatively attractive use of wealth. Better to say ‘we could build one Hong Kong-class hospital for every half million people in the Greater Bay Area’. (Of which more in a minute.)

The government claims that the extra space will accommodate lots of affordable housing – yet at the same time the reclamation will pay for itself through the traditional overpriced land-sale scam.

This is sort of contradictory, though the numbers probably look better when you see the reclamation as an area into which riffraff can be ‘decanted’ (the official term), leaving the old urban neighbourhoods of Kowloon to be flattened and sold off to developers to build luxury apartments.

But this all assumes that 20 years down the road, Hong Kong will still be a relatively desirable place to live in, or launder wealth through. That assumes that: a) the CCP regime will still be in power with comparable economic and political systems to today’s; and b) this regime will not have largely merged Hong Kong by then, so local land values will still be much higher here than across the border.

Indeed, the whole reclamation ‘vision’ looks arguably anti-Bay Area. Cunning opponents could point out that, rather than create extra land at vast expense on this side of the border (colonial-era, ‘little Hongkonger’, anti-motherland thinking), we should be patriotic and forward-looking, and be expanding into groovy trendy Zhuhai, Zhongshan, etc.

Perhaps it is ultimately an excuse to build an entirely new transport network – a serious boondoggle in its own right, and of course not necessary if you manage population growth and use existing New Territories land properly.

Which brings us to ex-lawmaker Edward Yiu, who reminds us that talk of the project sort-of profiting from land sales overlooks the obvious fact that brownfield and other NT sites represent similar value – which sits unlocked.

We have yet to hear Beijing’s thoughts on this plan.

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5 Responses to What you could do with HK$624 billion

  1. Chris Maden says:

    “We have yet to hear Beijing’s thoughts on this plan.” Huh????!!! It is Beijing’s plan.

  2. Probably says:

    Why not just close HK Disney and redevelop the land for housing? Thousands of acres and stops it draining public finances. Wins all round without having to drop tonnes of rocks into the sea.

    However I did hear from someone close to government that the real reason the CCP wants to push this through is so that US warships cannot belligerently sail through the area under the pretence of ‘open seas’ like they do in the Taiwan Straight.

  3. Cassowary says:

    Aside from paying off the developer’s lobby again, this is another example of Government by Edifice Complex. The point isn’t to solve the housing crisis, it’s to be seen doing something big and expensive about it.

    As for Beijing, it would never occur to them that there is any debate to be had about whether this is a good idea. This is a country that builds entire imitation European ghost towns on a whim. They’ve never met a problem that they couldn’t throw a grandiose mega-project at. It is the surest path to promotion.

  4. I Married Miss Fang says:

    *cough* cruise terminal ffs *cough*

  5. Headache says:

    As Chris Maden says, it’s Beijing’s plan, and the provinces are already falling into line.

    Apparently, plans for ANOTHER express rail connection, this one between Neo-Lantau and Shenzhen, are already being exhibited on the mainland: see latest post from Liber Research Community on https://www.facebook.com/localresearch (sorry, couldn’t find a non-Facebook host).

    Anyone remember Basic Law article 22? “No department of the Central People’s Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.”

    Hahahahaha!

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