Without more people, what will all the concrete be for?

With barely two months left in office, Donald Tsang’s otherwise inactive administration can’t resist one more pointless, overpriced, space-hogging infrastructure project. This one is yet another border crossing, costing HK$16 billion and somehow covering 18 hectares, or 45 acres, of land. It will be in a place called Heung Yuen Wai – ‘perfumed garden’, no less – in relative wilderness nearly halfway between Lowu and Shataukok. If a bureaucrat had to find a place to put another crossing, this location would leap out as an obvious gap.

The thing will require extravagant highway and tunnel links; as always it is hard to tell whether the links are to justify the crossing or vice-versa. Officials envisage that 20,000 vehicles and 30,000 humans will use the facility per day. The idea seems to be to redistribute existing traffic, though with China reducing taxes on luxury goods and Hong Kong’s cargo handling in decline in the coming years, it would be nice to think traffic will redistribute itself away from the Big Lychee as a whole of its own accord. Of all the crossings, the only nightmarishly crowded one is Lowu; the others are mostly fine, and the latest, at Shenzhen Bay, is almost a pleasure to use. The ‘economic benefits’ mentioned in the Standard are the usual Hong Kong government arithmetic to produce an instant economic multiplier effect without considering such things as opportunity costs. By this economically illiterate reckoning, any government spending produces ‘benefits’.

The Hong Kong government has a history of exaggerating population growth forecasts. You would almost get the impression, if you were a cynic, that the desire to justify infrastructure projects drives the forecasts, not the other way round. The Development Bureau’s public-works empire and an array of international engineering companies do very nicely out of the high-speed rail link to Shenzhen, the Zhuhai bridge, and all the rest. Of course, our friends the property tycoons have fingers in the pie as well, via their construction interests. It will be interesting to see whether Chief Executive-elect CY Leung gets to grips with this scam.

The South China Morning Post’s Monitor column gets into the swing of the ‘Donald development’ mentality today, asserting that a ban on Mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong will damage Hong Kong. The logic goes like this: fewer births mean a population 1.5 million below the government’s 2039 projection (for which read ‘target’), which means a smaller-than-otherwise economy, which means lower property prices and less need for construction, which obviously means we are doomed. Only by aiming to be a really big urban centre like Mexico City (20 million) can we prosper via the struggle to keep building unaffordable housing; otherwise we will shrivel up into a tiny patch of poverty like Monaco (35,000), left ruined and starving by cheap, spacious homes and an absence of construction sites.

Or could it be that CY Leung sees worthwhile economic activity beyond the incessant building and trading of crappy concrete boxes?

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14 Responses to Without more people, what will all the concrete be for?

  1. Che Guevara says:

    No problem. It won’t go ahead. CY has a solid theory of land use to base his decisions on. He has a theory of everything. It’s called Marxist-Leninism.

    Brush up your Lenin if you want to understand CY – and if you want to understand the situation of Hong Kong.

    Lenin highlights the fundamental delusion of all the “revolutionary” and “enlightened” land reformers in Hong Kong. Put simply, you have to get Socialist or shut up:

    “The idea that “socialisation” of land can be effected without socialisation of capital, the idea that equalised land tenure is possible while capital and commodity economy exist, is a delusion…The town and village proletarians together—are fighting against capital….The struggle for land and freedom is a democratic struggle. The struggle to abolish the rule of capital is a socialist struggle.”

    Lenin: The Proletariat and the Peasantry, 1905.

  2. Chopped Onions says:

    Oh dear, methinks a dead artist has resurfaced as a dead revolutionary, which is a shame really as the originals were both far more entertaining.
    As for today’s post: ” Hear, hear!!”

  3. Xiaoyao says:

    This excellent and much beloved blog sure attracts some bizarre trolls. Then again, maybe it’s just one sad little person with a Hemlock obsession. sometimes I suspect Che, Bela, and Honey Chile are one and the same.

  4. Best Before Sept 2012 says:

    Re the proposed border crossing, it will be interesting seeing the responses of those people who have been bellyaching about the super-incinerator that is planned for Shek Kwu Chau (off Lantau/Cheung Chau). As this particular concrete-laundering project is not in their back-yard, I suspect they wont wont bat an eye-lid.

  5. Obiwan says:

    Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

  6. Best Before Beer O'clock says:

    Funny you should mention the incinerator. It also costs c$16 billion. Nice round figure for another concrete-pouring plan. Meanwhile Hong Kong is generating so much construction waste, it has proposed the mother of all reclamations, territory-wide, to suck it up.

    All 3 issues are worth more than ‘bellyaching’ about.

  7. maugrim says:

    Xiaoyao, I think you might be right. Pity, I thought Bella was quite funny. You have to wonder whether or not the neo-Malthusians who populate our CPU unit actually live here. One thing I’d like to CY get rid of is the utterly stupid decision to allow Mainland cars into HK.

  8. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Xiaoyao: indeed you may be right – all the same person

    Hi ( she? ) is first on the block in the morning, full of quotations (now he/she has turned to dialectics instead of Dracula’s diary) plus a lot of BS, and ultimately contributing nothing .

    Although I did not comment at the time I was very happy to see Bella impaled. He went too far ( and certainly far too long) till it became boooooring.

    Although we commentators often lapse into the trivially funny ( and if you can’t laugh then really, you don’t deserve to be alive) I do really feel Hemlock and the comments section serves a serious purpose.

    There’s constructive and destructive criticism . The former breeds positive thinking and progress . The latter breeds BS.

    PS @ Maugrim re Mainland cars – I couldn’t agree more ! Half the Mainland people I know who have “passed” Mainland driving tests ( that’s the parts of the Mainland driving “tests” that you really must be tested on to pass vs the parts which you can pay to be “passed on”) don’t dare to drive in China, let alone in HK (where they can get a HK driving licence automatically using their PRC licence) because of our inordinately complex road system which even defeats me these days after 30 years here

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    On a more serious note:

    I am betting CY will prove to be a real man of action and – I do sincerely hope – a true Leader.

    Heck – we do need a Leader !

    Ever since Maclehose , who was one in a Million, we only ever had bureaucrats or stooges (except Patten , who was perhaps an embryo leader but very much mis-guided re China)

    I actually do love the Big Lychee. And the BL deserves a good, strong Leader.

    As for those who don’t like to be lead, well f**k you. You may be vocal , nay even influential, but you are by far in the minority one-man-one-vote ( and that also goes for superman and also for the 2 tycoons now named as bribe-payers in Macau)

  10. Aghast says:

    Seriously, where do people get these ideas about CY, except from their own imaginations?

    Read his manifesto – he’s an infrastructure junky, not just promising to ‘progressively increase’ the number of border crossings, but planning a whole new town in the northern NT, and speeding up development of new areas like Kwu Tung, as well as further developing Tung Chung, abandoned quarries, the boundary area (a big big one), restarting reclamation plans in areas like Northern Lantau and Tsuen Wan, and building railways all over the NT – in the north, and east to west and in Kowloon, east to west.

  11. Joe Blow says:

    Maclehose was deeply disliked by his underlings and Patten was a self-serving windbag (read: politician) who always kept one eye on the main chance.

  12. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Joe Blow

    Both comments very true. But both made a difference in their own separate ways – Maclehose for good ( which is why, if I recall correctly, he was appointed Governor 3 times in a row) Patten – overall – for bad ( at least as far as China/ 1997/the through train and China was concerned, but he did at least open up the barrier to governor and it’s suprising how many locals I meet who still hark back to his street visits – unknown at that time

    (actually my father knew Patten personally when Patten was MP for Bath , and he shared a similar view as you as regards Patten)

    But politicians are not elected to keep their underlings happy. They are elected to keep the electorate happy. We ( I ) pay the underlings’ salaries so I don’t care if they are happy or not as long as they do their job. And from today’s ( thursday’s) news it seems Lands dept / friend of the tycoons and the HYK , do a lousy job. Impale them all say I !

  13. The Meister says:

    Granted, Patten is a self-serving politician. However, one could argue that his reforms and the subsequent fallout with China did help raise the overall political awareness amongst the local residents, which is not a bad thing in my opinion. Without the brief taste of democracy from those reforms, I wonder if the population would still be politically involved enough for us to witness dramas such as the recent CE `election’ farce or the annual 1 July marches.

  14. Pete says:

    “Hi ( she? ) is first on the block in the morning, full of quotations (now he/she has turned to dialectics instead of Dracula’s diary) plus a lot of BS, and ultimately contributing nothing .
    Although I did not comment at the time I was very happy to see Bella impaled. He went too far ( and certainly far too long) till it became boooooring. ”

    Can RTP be serious?

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