The Government's decision to withdraw the Tamar Basin reclamation site from sale is sensible enough in the present property market. But the rezoning of the site as an administrative centre with new office complexes for the Government, the Chief Executive and the Executive Council is less so. The decision looks misguided not so much because of the potential revenue that will be forgone - although surveyors estimates suggest the loss would be substantial - as because it seems either unnecessary or the waste of an opportunity. The present slowdown in the economy may be temporary. However, the Government appears to believe such a prime waterfront site should not merely be held back for a limited period, after which it might be released for commercial development once the market revives. Such a position is certainly a brave one to take in such a property-driven economy as that of Hong Kong, and one which must have demanded a certain amount of vision. But having gone so far, the Government could have ventured further and looked for more imaginative alternative uses for the site than building a development which hardly seems needed. The plans were revealed in a hastily arranged media conference on Friday afternoon. They were disclosed amid a flurry of other policy statements which seemed to have been held over from the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday. It was as though the administration had wished to do a spot of spin doctoring, in a bid to distract attention from the poor voter registration results with a series of headline-grabbing announcements. If that was the motivation, it must be hoped that the policies themselves were not as hurriedly cobbled together as the news schedule. Although the Secretary for Environment, Planning and Lands, Bowen Leung Po-wing, said that the Tamar option had been under consideration for six months, it seems extraordinary that he should have waited until less than two months before the site was due to go on sale before summoning the media to attend with just one hour's notice. Be that as it may, the plans, as they stand, have disturbingly echoes of a much grander proposal, put forward two years ago by the former Preparatory Committee members, Nicky Chan Nai-keong and Ramond Wu Wai-yung, and architect Bosco Ho Hin-ngai. That called for a vast governmental and administrative area, complete with a kilometre-long Ceremonial Avenue, and a scaled-down version of Tiananmen Square. It was to cover not only the land between the Prince of Wales Barracks and the Citic Tower, as presently envisaged, but also a huge new chunk of additionally reclaimed land. The proposal rightly came in for heavily criticism for its size and pompous glorification of administrative power, as well as for wasting precious commercial land. In the best of times, it would have been inappropriate for a society which has traditionally shunned big government. At a moment when Hong Kong was wondering about the scope and style of its future government, it looked tactless into the bargain. However that original proposal did at least have provided for additional space for parks and public amenities. The architectural overstatement implicit in its conception would, if nothing else, have provided a focus for tourism and international interest, which post-handover Hong Kong has suddenly found itself unable to provide. The new plan is neither so large nor so overblown. Still, it suffers from the same underlying implicit statement about the power and importance of government. This is a temptation Hong Kong should resist as out of keeping with its essential nature. No one denies the need for the administration to move into larger, more spacious offices and to centralise operations in one complex. But does this have to be done on one of the most visible and valuable sites in the SAR? Redeveloping the present Central Government Offices on Lower Albert Road and the Murray Building on Garden Road could achieve the same purpose. Certainly, there would be a period in which officials would have to spread out into rented accommodation (a move which would provide a shot in the arm for the commercial property market at a difficult time). But, in the long term, the present administrative centre would be preserved in its relatively tranquil setting, back from the commercial heart of Central. If Tamar is not developed commercially, it could provide amenities, parks and tourism-friendly sites Hong Kong needs to help lure back travellers and improve our quality of life. In this respect, it would present a rare chance to reassess our development goals. Otherwise, it ought simply to be held back for commercial use at a later date. The present proposal lacks logic, and should be re-thought in one direction or the other.