The number of Mainland tourists flooding into Hong Kong is set to double in the next four years, and even National People’s Congress deputy Michael Tien gets slapped down by Global Times for selfishly suggesting that maybe we can’t handle so many. At the same time, the number of kids crossing the border to come to school here could quadruple.
What does this mean in practice? Twice as many Prada and Gucci outlets spreading into twice as many neighbourhoods? Local parents having to camp out in the street for two nights instead of one to get a school application form? Officials perversely maintain there’s no problem. Overcrowded streets and trains? Your favourite little noodle place closing to make way for a shop full of gold trinkets? Not happening! All a figment of your imagination. And think of all the jobs being created.
Meanwhile, much the same officials and their bureaucratic and corporate soulmates announce a Major Panic Freakout Alert: Hong Kong has a critical manpower shortage. We need an extra 500,000 workers! The Bauhinia Foundation’s paranoid demographic apocalypse is a nightmare vision of dependency ratios, ‘Type II babies’, future reproductive capacity, the ‘churn’ rate of migrants, and a plan to lure back 800,000 Hongkongers-in-exile to make clones from. Breed faster or we’re finished! Singapore will overtake us! The government will run out of money! We must tax you (unless you’re a Mainland shopper) more, now!
Financial Secretary John Tsang, after years of pouring recurrent revenues down the toilet in the form of inane subsidies and giveaways, will soon release a report (possibly around the time of the Budget next week) with a title something like We Face Total and Utter Fiscal Annihilation Disaster Mayhem Calamity Right This Minute! It will presumably be stuffed with all our favourite mythical monsters. People are healthier and living longer, therefore we are doomed by the aging population. Healthcare costs will bankrupt us. Our reserves of HK$200,000 per person will go psssst and in an instant we’ll be like the US, where government debt equals HK$400,000 per citizen. Pssst! Just like that! Honest.
So, on the one hand we have an already-unmanageable number of visitors streaming into town, and they’re due to double in quantity, almost certainly to or beyond the point at which something snaps and we get Causeway Bay Crowd Stampede Fatalities, or Race Riot on the MTR. But no! Our genius leaders see no problem at all. All perfectly sustainable and in fact good for you.
Then, on the other hand, we have a spectrum of non-problems concocted to justify grasping ‘solutions’. An aging society, a shortage of babies/workers, stupendous financial reserves mysteriously turning into the mega-deficit from Hell, a human version of Bee Colony Collapse Disorder, and all sorts of non-existent disaster scenarios that those same leaders are insisting we must Hurry Up and Wet Ourselves About Furiously.
How and where does this end up – possibly around the same time that Beijing’s game of chicken with the pro-democrats comes to a climax with the failure of a political reform bill in the Legislative Council, and the realization that this current system will remain for another decade or so.
Or maybe everything will come out OK. I declare the weekend open with the thought that the root of our problems is pretentious, smug, arrogant and self-serving grey men who don’t realize how easily their oh-so-clever ideas can be pricked and burst – as someone in Osaka recently discovered…