My Take

Eat my shorts! Food trucks are just a vanity project

What should have been a private enterprise has turned into a farcical and embarrassing scheme for officials trying to prove their worth

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 1:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 8:06am

Isn’t all the hoopla about food trucks getting a bit farcical and embarrassing?

Given the amount of attention and micro-management that has gone into the scheme, you might think the government is making the trucks the equivalent of economic national champions, an initiative that would boost the city’s GDP by a percentage point or two. How much intellectual and public resources have gone into the whole thing?

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I grew up in colonial Hong Kong where children often bought ice cream from trucks. Do you suppose colonial officials from the governor and the financial secretary down were so heavily involved in getting those trucks going? Did they have to go on TV licking ice cream cones?

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam-leung personally inspected the first trucks introduced last week and said he was encouraged to see the lines of customers at Golden Bauhinia Square.

Food “experts”, traffic consultants, safety regulators from various government departments and the Tourism Commission micro-managed the construction and design of the trucks down to the last details, including approving the menus. Instead of making it a private enterprise, maybe the government should have just done it itself.

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The idea was the brainchild of John Tsang Chun-wah, the former finance secretary and now chief executive wannabe, who made it a key policy goal in his 2015 budget speech. He got the idea apparently from watching the film Chef, a mediocre Hollywood comedy. Under the two-year pilot scheme run by the Tourism Commission, 16 food trucks will be rolled out across the city.

While the trucks are mobile and legal for the road, each has to be stationed at one of eight designated locations for a fixed period, before rotating to a new venue. In other words, they operate mostly like stores. So why bother fitting the expensive trucks to the tune of HK$1 million each to meet all the regulations? Why not just rotate the operators at designated stores? It would be much cheaper.

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This is why: it’s one of those rare projects delivered from conception to fruition entirely by our officials, an achievement on the order of the popular vanity car plates introduced by Tsang’s predecessor Henry Tang Ying-yen. More feathers in their caps; don’t ever say our top officials lack drive and initiative.