For sale: gold washbasins. Wanted: stairway

You will notice that, thanks to microscopic rounding-down of figures in this table, the HK$17 million office-decoration and HK$13 million rental costs don’t quite total (with sundries) HK$40 million…

This is what the government will spend on transition arrangements for Carrie Lam (or whoever Beijing chooses to ‘win’ Hong Kong’s Chief Executive phony election in March). Full story, complete with the official take-it-or-leave-it briefing for legislators, here.

The Chief Executive-elect’s 28-strong transition team will include no fewer than four chauffeurs/drivers, presumably to fetch toilet paper. But the real costs are due to office accommodation. This is partly because, as HKFP notes…

The office would only be used between March 26 and June 30 this year, but the rental period would be between late January and mid-August as office fittings will need to be installed and removed.

So the HK$13 million goes on renting the most-expensive-we-could-find office space for six-and-a-half months, while the government-in-waiting occupies it for just three.

And, as you would expect given the time it takes to install and remove them, the fittings must be of palatial extravagance, coming in at HK$17 million. Something tells me that, unlike a lot of public-sector furniture, this stuff will not be produced at Stanley Prison. (If I were the government spin-doctor here I would find a way to subtract the resale or re-use value from these figures. Surely the gold washbasins, ‘barely used’, can later be sold off on eBay or donated to an old people’s home?)

This story does not exactly lend credence to the pretense that a real election with an unpredictable result is about to take place – it has Lush Lavish Luxury of Louis XIV Lam written all over it.

I declare the four-day Rooster-Year weekend open with a slightly more down-to-earth public-works horror. This (from Google Street View) is the junction of Lyndhurst Terrace and Cochrane Street as it was up to a year ago…

Note a building (A) and a stairway to the footbridge (B).

The building (possibly the original HQ of Blacksmith Books, or at least next door) existed up until around a month ago. Then, within a couple of raucous and dusty weeks, it had vanished and turned into this pile of rubble (as seen from the Mid-Levels Escalator/footbridge)…

A classic example of private-sector efficiency, on gentrification steroids.

Just a few feet away, the stairway was sealed off roughly a year ago (minimum 8-10 months) and at some point demolished.

This was a major inconvenience to pedestrians, as it is the only access/exit point between the walkway system and this block between two busy roads (Lyndhurst and Hollywood).

The idea is to add an elevator – one of 230 promised by Chief Executive CY Leung years ago to make life easier for the old folks. Mankind could put a man on the moon in 1969, yet now in the 2010s we cannot build a lift without removing a stairway. And (needless to say) here we are, the best part of a year later, and nothing has happened. You still cannot get on and off the walkway system at Cochrane/Lyndhurst, and there is still no sign of anyone coming to construct the elevator.

Wading through the Civil Engineering and District Council online swamps, I find a take-it-or-leave-it briefing for our elected representatives about this idiocy, known as HF135. The bureaucrats describe a ‘public consultation’ process, which yielded comments from residents including elderly and disabled groups saying they would rather the stairway stayed open…

Wrong answer, obviously.

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11 Responses to For sale: gold washbasins. Wanted: stairway

  1. Only a year? The Central Market revitalisation project has been apparently moribund for several years now. If the government cannot even manage these comparatively small projects successfully, why should we trust it with billions of public dollars for mega-projects we never wanted in the first place?

  2. Stephen says:

    I suppose a Serviced Office never occurred to the GPA ?

    Sigh – Kung Hei Fat Choi !

  3. Listening to the fork-tongued Dalek Carrie at the High Court yesterday, it is clear she is another unprincipled apparatchik. I’m sure we will see her in the dock ere long.

  4. det1mark says:

    In 2006 I was asked by the water Supplies Department to quote for the removal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) / explosive ordnance (EO) at a site in Sham Shui Po where the items had been discovered during the excavation of a new sewer or storm drain. The police EOD Bureau took away several hundred items which kept being unearthed by construction workers but a formal search was needed to discover if more items were still buried there (the police, rightly, don’t have the capacity for such labour intensive work), hence my quote. At the time, Donald Tsang was having his Government House fish pond renovated for HK$3 million so imagine my disappoinment and consternation when the WSD declined my offer to conduct the clearance, which was well under HK$1 million. Instead, they opted to dig the trench in a nother location whilst filling in the original excavation, which was next to a road, 10 metres from shops and residences. People are now driving, living and working next to a filled-in trench that most likely contains plenty of explosive items that the police were unable to take away. Much better that Donald got his Gucci fish pond… See the following for more on this issue:

  5. Mary Melville says:

    The administration is always bleating about the cost of maintaining heritage buildings while leaving them empty for years.
    The temporary offices of CE elect could have been located in the currently empty French Mission or King Ying Lei, both within easy distance of Tamar.
    Then there are the 120+ empty schools to choose from.
    Using one of these facilities would have been a win-win by providing funds for its maintenance and defraying the annual expenditure.
    As for furniture and fittings, I remember a recent Audit? report about a government dept with dozens of excess work stations. They could have been used for nothing more than the cost of transportation.
    The NGOs Green Dot Home and Cross Roads are packed with all sorts of furniture going for a song. All could be donated back at the end of the 3 month tenure.
    It is risible that the very people who are urging prudence in expenditure are themselves the most prolific squanderers of public money. That our per capita landfill contribution keeps growing is no surprise when government officials make no attempt to reduce unnecessary consumption of materials.

  6. Laguna Lurker says:

    @det1mark: The article in is very interesting and informative, but Mark Ranson makes a bit of a meal of drawing the distinction between the words “Ordinance” and “Ordnance”:


    Unfortunately, Mr. Ranson overlooks some important differences between related words. To wit, his photo caption: “World War Two bomb diffused in Hong Kong”. The word “diffused” evokes a gentle evaporation and dispersal upon the breeze. The correct terminology in EOD parlance is “de-fuzed” (N.B. not “de-fused”). There are fuzes (initiators) and fuses (circuit breakers).

    Former BDO, RHKP

  7. dimuendo says:

    The only people who matter in Hong Kong are:

    a) the civil service

    b) the tycoons

    c) the connected.

    In that order.

    Why does the “Director” of the chief executive elect need a driver? Why should a car be provided? Why does the chief executive elct need, or be entitled to, a car or a “chauffeur”. Note, said drivers and chauffeurs are themselves civil servants.

    Why does the chief executive elect need office before taking up position. Why does she need staff? Why canot she use her election offices? If needed (why?) then cannot she be reimbursed for use of such elctionn offices for use wheile “elect”.

    I have the misfrtune to sometimes deal with the Legal Aid departent, which is at least in part dysfunctionnal. We were deassigned in 2005. We have just been copied in to a letter Legal id have seemingly written to our fourth successor, seemingly in reply to a leettr written to Legal Aid in 2011 (repeat 2011) concerinng an order made in 2005. In the interim the aided peron is still presumaly awaiting his damages while Legal Aid pursue their leisurely minute pedantry.

    Somebody should explain to those up north that a lot of the dis-satisfaction in HK could at least be reduced if those who “govern ” us, namely said civil service, actually tried to be competent and prompt.

  8. dimuendo says:

    Apologies for the many typos. My fault for not proof reading. Hemlock’s contribution for not providing a none tiny, and not black, font.

  9. det1mark says:

    @Laguna Lurker: Well spotted regarding diffused as opposed to de-fuzed. regrettably, the website editors chose the images and captions without asking me to proof read. Regrettable.
    I am privileged to work with a former expat BDO HKPF on the rare occasions that we get work in HK. Perhaps the the pair of us should get into VIP fishponds.

  10. Blacksmith Books says:

    Not our HQ, we were a few blocks up the steps, but Flow Books was in there for a long time! Ah, those heady days when cultural businesses could exist in the walk-ups of Central.

  11. pd says:

    Apologies for referencing a PIMP article, but a recent piece, on the future of US-China relations, is worth reading, in a middle-of-the-road sort of way:

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