A United States investment bank for which your correspondent worked years ago once decided that it needed a new Asian equities sales director to stir the troops into a more active sales mode. While having nil Asian experience, the new director was at least sufficiently acquainted with there being a world outside the borders of the US to get himself a passport before leaving New York. Not all his colleagues were that knowledgeable. First, however, he sent his wife to scout for a home and this occasioned the interesting sight a few days later of a senior administrator in the Hong Kong office banging his desk with his fists and making loud noises of frustration. 'What's the matter, Bob?' your correspondent asked. 'It's Linda, Chuck's wife,' he said (not their real names). 'Why? What did she do?' 'She says she's willing to come down from six acres but she draws the line at two,' Bob replied. Linda put up a furious fight for her rights but in the end, of course, did not get her two-acre home and had to settle for a townhouse on the Peak at a rent of HK$80,000 a month. She and Chuck transferred elsewhere again in six months and the firm continued paying the rent on the empty house for the rest of the two-year lease. The story comes to mind with the reason given on Monday by the Deputy Secretary for Information Technology and Broadcasting (phew, what a mouthful), Annie Tam Kam-lan, as to why the space allocated at Cyber-Port for top executive housing will not be scaled down: 'We learn from some companies that their senior staff are not ready to come if they are not provided with individual house-type residences.' Hi there, Linda, is that you coming back again or only some of your friends? Meanwhile Hong Kong people must live in crowded flats averaging less than 500 square feet because, we are so often told, there is just too little available land in the SAR. For us, yes, but not for Linda and Chuck apparently. The give-aways to foreigners do not stop there, however. Ms Tam says the amount of office space at Cyber-Port may have to go up because demand is much greater than expected. Let's put a little perspective on this. Cyber-Port is a Government project that ran into trouble from its start when it was awarded privately without competitive bidding to what is now Pacific Century CyberWorks. This alone caused an uproar. The concept is also flawed. It ignores the existence of the Internet by assuming that information technology can be successful in Hong Kong only if all practitioners are grouped together in one central (actually out of the way) location despite studies showing that target users do not want the centralised facilities it will offer. All of this has naturally embarrassed the Government but, rather than rethink the project, the official reaction has been one of putting the public relations shills to work to tell us that big demand is proof of the concept's success. It is actually proof of two other things. The first is that we are looking at a severe impending shortage of office space across all of Hong Kong in less than two years' time, with very little being built, while take-up of 5.4 million square feet last year was already double the previous year's. The second, and more important, is that the Government is still pitching this Cyber-Port office space at HK$10 to HK$12 a square foot, perhaps a third of what the private sector would charge. You cannot find rents that low in an outer Kowloon slum. So of course demand is rising. All this proves is that we do not have enough office space anyway and that you can fill anything if you drop your rents far enough. What we actually have here is a case of Hong Kong taxpayers bearing the cost of providing cheap office accommodation to foreign firms that can make a reasonable pretence of being involved in high technology. They win, we lose.