'Visitors splash out a record HK$140b' SCMP headline, April 25 But one set of visitors didn't splash out very much at all. In fact you would have stayed perfectly dry standing near them. It is Hong Kong that is to splash out on them, not they on Hong Kong. Look at the bar chart below and, specifically, at the one marked cruise ship. Do you see anything in the way of a bar or even any colour marking above this notation? There wasn't any on my computer screen when I drew up the chart but perhaps the graphics people in our newsroom will have performed a miracle by the time you read this. If you see nothing, there is a reason. The TB, which in our town stands for Tourism Board rather than a wasting disease, has just published a breakdown of visitor spending last year by type of visitor and it says that cruise ship passengers spent a grand total of HK$46.67 million. This comes to about one third of one tenth of 1 per cent of that TB splash-out figure of HK$140 billion. Transit passengers spent 60 times as much, just in hanging around the airport, while aircrew spent 28 times as much and even visiting servicemen spent 3.7 times as much. Look at it another way. Immigration department figures say that there were 474,000 passenger arrivals from ocean-going vessels last year. If these people spent a total of only HK$46.67 million, then on average they spent only HK$98 per person over the whole of their visits. Splash-out, you understand. This should not be surprising, however. Cruise tour promoters may talk big of exotic destinations but the last thing they want their passengers to do is get off ship and go shopping at these destinations. They don't build shopping malls into their ships to see their customers do their shopping on shore. And here comes the most interesting figure of all. Did you know that the estimated cost of the cruise terminal to be built on 7.6 hectares at the end of the old Kai Tak runway is HK$2.4 billion, excluding the commercial area? That would come to about 52 years worth of spending in Hong Kong by cruise ship passengers and we are talking here of their total spending, not the small proportion of it that could reasonably be said to be profit and justify investment in cruise ship facilities. Oh, but, silly boy, it's a growing business. It's booming. It will be much bigger in just a few years time. I see. And that, I suppose, is why the TB's figures also say that there was only 1.1 per cent growth in it last year. There's so many things to see by boat from Hong Kong, you know - scenic Kaohsiung Harbour, the glorious Manila container port, the wide open Pacific Ocean, why, it's an endless list. Perhaps that naming confusion between our official tourism promoter and a wasting disease is not so inappropriate after all. I mean, the TB is pretty good at wasting money. 'More people would retire across the border if Hong Kong could provide quality medical services there ...' Insight page headline SCMP, April 24 And professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek of City University then went on to propose that we should lash out money to build hospitals in Guangdong for Hong Kong people who decide to live there. It's not the first time this proposal has been made, or others like it, for instance that we should pay for the education of Hong Kong children whose families have moved to Guangdong. Listen, Professor Cheng, I am perfectly willing to go ahead with it provided that the government of Guangdong in turn reimburses us for two thirds of the welfare payments we make to residents of Tin Shui Wai. They mostly come from Guangdong. Why should we in Hong Kong be made responsible for the fact that they are also mostly unemployable? Fair is fair. If we are to cover the medical costs of our oldies in Guangdong, let Guangdong cover the social assistance costs of its losers here. But if you think this should only go one way, Professor Cheng, then why stop at Guangdong? Why don't we cover the medical costs of Hong Kong people who have moved to Canada? Perhaps we should build a Hongkies Only hospital in Vancouver. We can make it even more absurd if you choose. How absurd must we be before you recognise absurdity?