Scandal of the Week – High-Speed-Rail-Rainstorm-Delay-Gate – gets juicy. We were intrigued to learn yesterday that the MTR’s HK$67 billion Mega-Hole-to-Shenzhen project would be delayed for a couple of years because of flooding during the extreme downpours late last March. A document has now surfaced apparently showing that the MTR realized the white elephant was going to be seriously behind schedule as early as last January.
Perhaps the other problems mentioned yesterday are in fact responsible, but the engineers were too embarrassed to admit that an unexpected golf driving range and the surprise discovery of hard, solid rock under the ground had thwarted them.
“Blame that really heavy rain,” one suggests. “After all, it swept Festival Walk away, never to be seen again.”
“Brilliant!” another replies. “If those suckers are dumb enough to spend HK$67 billion on this boondoggle, they’ll believe anything.”
And now our valiant Legislative Council members smell blood. They do have their uses, sometimes.
Meanwhile, more humiliation is coming the way of officials thanks to the latest Director of Audit’s Report.
The Highways Department’s mission to cover Hong Kong with six-lane freeways ran into some sort of goof-up with the Tsing Yi section of Route 8. OK, it’s a bit ho-hum. Only another of those ‘whoops we just flushed HK$429.5 million of taxpayers’ money down the toilet ha ha’ things. Hard to get worked up about, really; it can come out of petty cash.
Of more interest is the fiscal and policy obscenity known as the Mega Events Fund, which is guilty of ‘reckless spending without achieving its ends’. It could have done ‘reckless spending while superbly succeeding in its aims’ or ‘keeping spending well under-budget but failing miserably in its aims’, but oh no.
Its true crime is to exist in the first place. This body of civil servants is tasked with funding such excruciatingly tiresome spectacles as men in shorts running around a field chasing a ball, or a man walking round a field hitting a ball with a stick, and thereby, somehow, attracting visitors to Hong Kong, thus creating some sort of employment opportunities. As the Director of Audit confirms, the Mega Events Fiends have subsidized shysters and lied about things like the number of jobs created, for which they should indeed have their fingernails pulled out. But let’s step back a minute.
We have too many tourists in this city, and we have full employment. We do not need more visitors or more low-level jobs. Indeed, by stimulating visitor arrivals and short-term menial vacancies, the Mega Events Fund lunatics are damaging the quality of life for all of us and probably causing unnecessary disruption in the labour market. They are spending tax dollars to actively make Hong Kong a worse place. We might as well have a Dog Poo-Poo on Sidewalks Fund, to give HK$100 Park N Shop coupons to pet-owners every time their canines deposit excrement in public areas, or a Vehicle Congestion and Air Pollution Fund to give free fuel to car drivers who park illegally in crowded streets. Our lives would be better if these bureaucrats committed suicide just took the cash and burnt it.
I declare the four-day weekend open with the thought that the Director of Audit might want to find out what the entire Tourism Commission does all day long. My hunch is this delusional mass of fermenting dregs is secretly funded by Shanghai or Singapore.