Tacky district landmarks require rethink
Devoid of any real power, Hong Kong's District Councils are understandably not getting the attention they might deserve. But that does not mean their decisions are irrelevant to the community. The torrent of public criticism against "eyesore" landmarks put up by councils in different districts suggests something is amiss. Better monitoring and accountability on spending is needed.
It is regrettable that at least two contentious projects, a giant butterfly on a hill slope and a five-metre statue of harmony, are still going ahead as planned in Tsuen Wan and Yau Tsim Mong respectively. This came despite criticism that the councils are wasting taxpayers' money on landmarks that look tacky and uninspiring. An example is the goose statue in Sham Tseng, a HK$760,000 sculpture in honour of the signature roast goose dish served by the local restaurants. The two coming new structures are to cost taxpayers more than HK$3 million - enough for special old age allowance for some 1,360 recipients.
Earlier this year, the chief executive decided to inject a one-off HK$100 million special grant for each of the 18 councils to carry out "signature" projects. The projects were to address local needs or be able to highlight the characteristics of the district and would have a "visible and lasting impact". Given the guidelines and the councils' spending records, people are justifiably concerned that the councils will go down the easy way to build more landmarks. It is good to hear that some councillors appear to be more sensitive to public sentiment in the wake of the criticism. Most of the councils plan to use the money on improving district facilities, such as building a community centre for ethnic minorities. It would be even better if there were more innovative ideas.
Power comes with responsibility. If the lower-tier political structure is keen to play a bigger role in district administration, it has to convince the community that it is capable of so doing. The new funding scheme will be a good opportunity for the councils to prove that they are up to the job.