• Fri
  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 4:42pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 12:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 12:33am

When do we declare the cruise terminal a white elephant?


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

Looking more closely at the schedule for dockings at our spanking new cruise terminal, we can see why Commissioner for Tourism Philip Yung was so keen on setting up an Asia Cruise Fund.

The idea is that participating markets "pool financial incentives" and essentially subsidise cruise lines in their marketing and product development costs to encourage them to visit. How effective this will be remains to be seen since there are now only two participants: Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"Other countries are being explored," a tourism board spokesman said hopefully. These apparently include ports in Japan and Vietnam.

The terminal opened in June last year but it has not exactly been overwhelmed with business.

In January, there was one visit lasting three days. Last month, there were four visits taking up seven days, and this month, there are three visits lasting seven days. There will be four visits taking up six days next month, while May will have one visit lasting a day. There are no visits scheduled for June, July and August, although in September there will be four visits for seven days.

As can be seen, this HK$8.2 billion facility is barely used. In June, its capacity will double when the second berth opens.

There are a couple of visits in January next year and then in February, the terminal will experience a first when two liners are scheduled to call at the same time.

You could easily be forgiven for thinking the facility was part of the Fantasy Kai Tak competition being organised by the Energizing Kowloon East Office of the Development Bureau. At what stage, we wonder, do we declare the terminal a white elephant?


Women's business

The Women's Foundation has produced yet another report on the condition of women in Hong Kong. The report released yesterday explores the prospects for women entrepreneurs.

While observing that there is only scant data available on the breakdown of small and medium-sized enterprise owners by gender, it says that more than 80 per cent of high-growth enterprises in Hong Kong were founded by men, thus trailing mainland China and the United States.

One key recommendation from the study is for the establishment of a women's entrepreneurship centre, possibly within the Trade and Industry Department. The purpose is to apply a "gender lens" to the development of the SME sector and business ownership. "The new centre would be tasked with the systematic collection of gender-disaggregated data and detailed analysis of the needs of women entrepreneurs, leading to a policy framework for women business owners."

The report also calls on more "companies to embrace supply chain diversity with a particular focus on supporting and providing opportunities to women-owned business", while also asking them "to procure goods and services from women-owned business".

We support much that the foundation stands for in terms of gender stereotyping and discrimination against women. But we find it hard to go along with the ideas expressed in the report. Businesses will surely buy from companies owned by women if they offer competitive goods and services.

Yes, we understand that women may have trouble in accessing credit, but surely all small businesses do. But maybe we are missing something, and we are, as ever, prepared to be convinced otherwise.


Bankers' pay

Five years on and the debate on bankers' pay continues with no real sign of resolution in sight.

Most people don't like the idea of bonus caps. Some argue the caps are necessary to reduce the proportion of variable pay in total remuneration as this encouraged bankers to take crazy risks which lead to systemic risks, a recent article in Financial News suggests.

Some say it was a populist measure to reduce the overall pay of hated banker's pay. The problem with bonuses, as the article points out, is not that they get paid for making a profit but rather the profit is often transitory.

Enter Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, with a suggestion that bonuses can be clawed back over a six-year period. Will this resolve this vexed issue?


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com


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This article is now closed to comments

Instead of paying out billions of dollars for foreign expertise and construction workers pay, couldn't we just do what the old EEC used to do for the farmers. In order to maintain agricultural prices they controlled supply by paying farmers not to farm some of their land. Foreign experts might consider taking just 50% of their normal fees in exchange for not having to come here and build anything. Likewise, couldn't we offer the construction workers some money not to construct anything. Cheaper all around and for largely the same result, yes?
That headline should read "When do we declare the cruise terminal ANOTHER white elephant?"
And it will soon be joined by yet more if the AA gets its way and builds a third runway.
Remember we also have a road (only) bridge from Macau and Zhuhai coming on line soon with no space left in Hong Kong to accommodate all the additional vehicles which will speed in. It is not too late to convert the function of this bridge to light railway. Most of the cruise terminal should be pulled down and the land used for housing.
Cruise ships used to frequent Hong Kong all the time, even when their was not true terminal. Watch the youtube videos...I even have a desk my grandpa bought here in the 1960's while on a cruise.
HOWEVER, now we are addicted to mainland shopping tourism and the government does not give a hoot about promoting Hong Kong to other parts of the word or identifying it as a unique experience, with lots of colonial heritage (thaw which was not knocked down yet). I suppose Jackie Chan's love child did not help. But I regress.....Seriously, what do you get if you come here as a cruise ship tourist? Everything is overpriced and probably more expensive than home........then you have the hoards of unruly Mainlanders crowding literally everything. I wanted to take my dad to the peak, but then ended up driving him there to avoid what appeared to be a 2 hour queue.
The cruise terminal achieved white elephant status the day it was conceived by the Development Bureau.
John Adams
...which raises a LOT of questions about the judgement of the Development Bureau !
Seems these days we've become numb to these huge numbers.
What's a few $ billion these days ? Just another useless little bridge or a 10 km stretch of road. So why all the fuss over a wasted $8.2 billion on a stupid cruise terminal that was never and will never be needed ?
( Anyway ... it does look rather pretty, parked there on the end of the old Kai Tak runway, even if non-one can actually get there, let alone use the facilities )

And the iniquity - the obscenity - of it all is that the Legco finance committee routinely approve all these white elephants with scarcely a question, unless, as was the case for the new RTHK building , the applied budget is more than 400% above the original budget
(Hey- what's a 100% or 200% over-run these days ? That's par for the course !).
Unless John Tsang and his finance team are brain-dead, FOR GOODNESS SAKE WAKE UP !.
( But probably they are brain-dead, and always were so )
A government-funded women's entrepreneurship centre is a terrific way to spend taxpayers' money. Could we also please have a left-handers entrepreneurship centre, a short people entrepreneurship centre, and a bald persons entrepreneurship centre while we're at it? Maybe we could locate them all on the same floor of the cruise terminal to get some of that synergistic mojo going.
Once they develop the land near the cruise terminal more cruise ships will want to birth there. People need to have a longer term view. Right now it is too much in the middle of nowhere. they should have waited for more development near by before opening it. right now everyone needs to get on a bus and spend 40 minutes to get somewhere.
No they won't, because building more shopping malls to sell overpriced goods to Mainlanders does not help the industry.....shopping was once great in this duty free port city. Now, the overhead from high rents have made goods more expensive that places where you have to pay a VAT or sales tax. I suppose cheap Chinese kitsch and cr@p like that is inexpensive, but surely tourist don't come here for that.....
"...more cruise ships will want to birth there."
Has anyone talked to the Department of Health and Hospital Authority?
finally someone is awake!!! it took a while




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