Five thousand extra construction workers will be hired to speed up the building of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, so that the long-delayed project meets its original deadline. SCMP, November 25 But why meet the original 2016 deadline? If there has been a delay in building this bridge, why not push the completion date out and do things at the more moderate pace originally planned? One answer is that perhaps the point of building this bridge is not so much to connect Hong Kong to the western part of the Pearl River Delta as to create jobs and award lots of lucrative contracts to friends of the functional constituencies. If so, then why not do it as a rush job with even more positions and contracts, particularly as the Civic Party can now be blamed for the delay and extra cost on account of a two-year legal challenge. Then again, perhaps this kind of thought would only occur to a nasty journalist who suspects the bridge project may have fallen behind schedule for other reasons and officials suddenly found it very convenient to be able to blame the Civic Party. Two birds with one stone - not only do we get an excuse for the delay but we get to slap around some people who are not sufficiently loyal to Beijing. We can't miss a chance like that, can we? I wonder about this urgency to get the bridge built, as it is too much of a piece with our chief executive's push to pour as much concrete as quickly as possible. As the first chart shows, we have doubled real spending on public sector construction in just three years. The Zhuhai bridge is not the only infrastructure project of dubious merit in all this. The top candidate for the public waste award remains the high-speed railway to the border, which we never knew we needed until Beijing said we did and on which we are still proceeding gung-ho at a full ticket cost approaching HK$70 billion. Beijing is clearly having second thoughts on the entire high-speed rail network but that has not intruded on Donald's commitment to this pointless project. There's a more immediate question, however. If we truly need 5,000 more workers on the bridge in addition to those for all the other big projects, where will we find them? The unemployment rate in construction has already fallen to only 4 per cent, a low not seen since the height of the airport's construction in the late 1990s. There are now fewer than 10,000 unemployed construction workers and this mostly represents people who may call themselves such but are just as happy to be minivan drivers or anything else at hand. Admittedly there are now more young entrants to construction, following a government boost to training programmes. This offsets a multi-year trend of an ever-ageing construction workforce. But these young people may easily find their hopes betrayed in a few years. Developed societies tend to have proportionately less need for construction - what is needed has largely been built. We were in line with that trend before Donald's concrete-pouring mania and we will almost certainly revert to it again. This would send construction unemployment soaring once more. Ah, but I forget. Who says these construction workers must come from Hong Kong? The point is the yummy contracts. Perhaps the talk of jobs is just public relations.