IF there is one clear lesson to be learned from Hong Kong's economic agony it must surely be the dangers of being overly reliant on any one sector. Much of the SAR's prodigious economic growth over the past decade has come on the back of a tourism-driven retail sector. Along with the visitors' dollars came sky-high rentals and soaring commercial property prices. Over the years, Hong Kong has allowed itself to become one big shopping centre for fickle overseas visitors. Now they are gone, and it is far from certain if they will return. Why should they? The mighty Hong Kong dollar certainly is not going to tempt them here - not when they can buy their goods cheaper in Singapore or Bangkok. So now is it time for Hong Kong to reinvent itself? Why not. We have a golden opportunity nestling deep in our bosom. With the removal of the international airport to the more sensible - if less sensational - environs of Chek Lap Kok, the Government is to embark on a radical facelift of 580 hectares of run-down urban Hong Kong at its eyesore-worst. The initial proposals (see Page 3) are promising. Instead of the usual grey expanse of concrete, Kowloon residents can look forward to some imaginative use of wide open green space. That is the good news, now for the bad. The Government's long love affair with the maid of laissez faire has left it impotent when it comes to city planning. Ask almost any architect what they think of Hong Kong's famous skyline and they will shrug (at best) and more often than not grimace. Hong Kong's face is peppered with an ugly rash of carbuncles and there is nothing in the SAR lawbook that allows any of us to do anything about it. The only concern of the lands department is to ensure that buildings accord to zoning and safety requirements. Aesthetics just does not come into it. When the Government has carved up the plots of land and designated their end use they will be turned over to the highest bidders - who can then perpetrate whatever atrocity their avarice or lack of taste might dictate. While the smell of the nullah when you step from the plane was certainly a unique and memorable experience, who really wants to drive through ramshackle and rundown tenements on their holidays? It takes a strange kind of cruelty to feed off such sights. So why not grab this opportunity to build something for the people of Hong Kong to feel proud of? Unfortunately, given the track record, it might not be wise to place any bets.