There is increasing concern that Chek Lap Kok's competitiveness as the most important airport gateway to China has probably peaked and the government must act to avert a slide in its status. Unfortunately, the government doesn't seem worried. It should be. All we need to do is recount what has happened to Kwai Chung port over the past few years. Despite being the world's busiest container port, Kwai Chung has lost much of its competitive edge over Shenzhen ports in recent years. This has been traced to a dithering government not doing enough to push through customs co-operation with Guangdong authorities, a lack of transparency in port charges and allowing Shenzhen competitors to build a critical mass of users. The threat was seen coming years ago, but little was done because of the misplaced confidence in the value of the Hong Kong port's higher productivity compared with far lower costs in Guangdong. In much the same way, Chek Lap Kok faces intense competitive pressures from other airports - Shenzhen Baoan, Guangzhou Baiyun and Macau International - in the Pearl River Delta. The local aviation sector has not, until now, had much to worry about, because of Chek Lap Kok's large lead in terms of passenger and cargo flows, as well as international connections. Flow has automatically come to Hong Kong because it has been the only door to the outside world for southern China. Yet that is changing - and rapidly. Domestic connectivity has become increasingly critical, tipping the advantage towards Baiyun and Baoan. Customs issues similar to those that affect Kwai Chung's competitiveness have also led international air-freight operators to eye setting up across the border. German carrier Lufthansa has committed to a new joint-venture cargo airline, called Jade, to be based in Shenzhen. Even tiny Macau is carving out a niche for its airport, with a commitment to low costs that will help it develop as an alternative leisure travel centre to complement its casinos. The Airport Authority last year commissioned consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to conduct a study looking at 'ways to maintain and improve Chek Lap Kok's competitiveness', according to industry sources. This study is now believed to be largely completed, with a draft making its way through senior levels of government. Unfortunately, that report, in its present form, will never see the light of day. When officials were asked about it, Below Deck was told that 'the report is not in a shape suitable for public consumption'. In fact, Booz Allen was apparently so incompetent in drafting it that 'the airport board ... has asked [for] the report to be completely re-done'. There's no way of knowing for sure what is in the study or how well it was done, short of 'borrowing' a copy and seeing for myself. Trust me, I'm trying. But it does seem suspicious, and based on the government's record, there is a pattern of rejecting reports it doesn't like. For instance, a report compiled in 2002 by the Hong Kong Logistics Development Council's M-Logistics team, arguing that conflicts of interest meant that senior officials should not be allowed to head our logistics initiatives, never surfaced in public. If the government is unwilling to allow experts to voice their thoughts independently and without fear or favour - even if the points made are critical or controversial - what is the point of spending tax dollars on any studies at all? Mothers are always saying that honesty and self-reflection are the best policies for building character. Below Deck thinks the same way. Let's take an honest look at ourselves in the mirror, even if some blemishes are reflected. You can't turn a blind eye to those blemishes. At the end of the day, if the study is poorly done, it's a reflection on the reputation of the consultants that drafted it, not on Hong Kong. So Below Deck implores the government to listen to mum. Release the study and let the industry and taxpayers decide if Booz Allen's conclusions are worth considering. What have we got to lose?