My Take

Mickey Mouse is laughing all the way to the bank

Thanks to Legco, we now know Disney’s taking taxpayers for a ride – to the tune of at least HK$1 billion that’s going straight into the pockets of the US parent company

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 November, 2016, 10:59pm

No one should think regular Legislative Council meetings are a waste of time. Now that we have got rid of a couple of noisy localists with their disruptions, we get to hear some real outrages against the government.

You have already heard about the whopping HK$5.8 billion the government needs to pay to improve Disneyland in a six-year project. But it gets better, or rather worse. Thanks to an innocuous question from Yiu Si-wing, a lawmaker for the tourism sector, commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung revealed to Legco more details about how the total cost of HK$10.9 billion estimated for the Disneyland facelift would be spent.

Disney’s taking Hong Kong for a ride

Apparently, about 10 per cent of the total, that’s more than HK$1 billion, will be paid to the Walt Disney Company in the US for its “designs and technical support” for the new rides and features.

Did I detect a slight embarrassment in So’s voice when he disclosed the number in the Legco chamber? He only coughed up the figure after being pressed repeatedly if any money would end up flowing back to the US.

So stressed that 90 per cent of the HK$10.9 billion would be spent within the local economy. But it’s still hard to get over the other 10 per cent going straight into the pockets of Disney.

I am sure Disney is preparing some breathtaking new rides and designs for Hong Kong. The six-year expansion, due to start in 2018, will feature zones based on the blockbuster film Frozen and Marvel superheroes like Iron Man, as well as a major transformation of the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle.

But one billion dollars? That’s how much the supposedly state-of-the-art flight control system, now being adopted for use at the airport, cost. What kind of hi-tech gadgets and creative designs are we getting that would justify Disney’s price tag?

Lawmakers grill administration on HK$11 billion expansion for Hong Kong Disneyland

Disney also happens to own almost half of the theme park. So why are we paying them to upgrade this project to keep the park from irreversible decline? You would think the whole purpose of a joint venture like this is that the co-owners share the same financial incentives and interests.

The government estimates the expansion will create 5,000 to 8,000 jobs across the ­tourism and construction industries, along with massive economic benefits. Let’s hope we are not throwing good money after bad.