WHERE DOES ONE even start with all the fallacies in thinking behind the HK$18 billion tourism promotion campaign that our Government unveiled last weekend? Let's try the angle that Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa himself touted, namely that the tourism industry already employs 330,000 people (your sources, Mr Tung?) and putting more money into it will create even more jobs. The first thing you may notice about this is that there was no actual target for the number of new jobs to be created. Just try in the private sector to propose spending HK$18 billion without a business plan and budget that puts precise numbers to the projected benefits as well as the costs. Governments, unfortunately, are not constrained by such disciplines. Then think about the sorts of jobs that tourism creates. They are almost all menial - cleaning other people's messes, slinging ice cream cones, fawning on presumptuous visitors and selling them knick-knacks. They are, in short, the sorts of low-paid jobs that Hong Kong people no longer want to hold. Other people will gladly take them, however. The industry is already characterised by migrant labour from the mainland and the Philippines. How ironic it all is. The reason we have a rising unemployment rate at the moment despite the net creation of 150,000 jobs over the last two years is that we have opened the borders wide to migrant labour. We will now have to open them even wider as few Hong Kong people will fill these tourism positions. A tourism boost will do very little to bring down our unemployment rate. Let's try another angle. Spending HK$18 billion to promote tourism will help revive our sagging economy. The difficulty here is once again something that private sector financiers immediately recognise and Government ignores. What is the opportunity cost of this money? Could we get a bigger bang for our buck if we spend it on something other than tourism? The problem with spending it on tourism is that most of the money tourists bring in goes right out again. They fly in on foreign-owned airlines to stay in foreign-run hotels constructed out of imported materials and eat imported foods in between buying imported goods. The only thing they really buy from Hong Kong are the services of the people who wait on them but much of the wages these people make also go out again as remittances to the Philippines and the mainland. Tourism does not really give us much bang for our buck. The real beneficiaries are foreign airlines, foreign hotel chains and foreign makers of consumer goods. They love it when we spend public money to boost tourism. That is why they have such a big lobby to bend Mr Tung's ears. Yes, superficially tourism is important to our economy. Spending in Hong Kong by non-residents (if we ignore that they really spend little on Hong Kong) amounts to about 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product. But tourism is a two way street. If it cheers you to know that non-residents spent HK$14 billion here in the first quarter just remember that spending abroad by Hong Kong residents amounted to HK$23.4 billion over the same three months. We may be Asia's biggest visitor destination but we actually run a net deficit on this business. And to see why, just make one of those shopping expeditions across the border to Shenzhen to learn what the word 'crowd' really means. All the figures tell you that the days when Hong Kong was a shoppers' paradise are long gone and we can no more bring them back than we can bring in Mount Everest. What we have here is another Tung triumph of waste, right up there with CyberPort, Disney Park and the big technology push.