Why Hong Kong task force chief should land a medal

In the hunt for housing sites, Stanley Wong Yuen-fai is doing a thankless job so thousands of bureaucrats can hide behind their desks and do nothing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 3:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2018, 6:53am

Someone give Stanley Wong Yuen-fai a Bauhinia medal for performing a completely thankless job in the public interest, so thousands of government bureaucrats can hide behind their desks and do nothing. 

The chairman of the government-appointed Task Force on Land Supply has worked valiantly to identify new land sources to build more homes.

But the real question is, why do we need this task force to begin with? Isn’t this the job of the Lands Department and the Development Bureau when its officers have information on practically every square inch of land and its designated usage within the boundaries of Hong Kong?

The task force has come up with 18 land options. But even before it launches a survey to gauge public views, they have already been thoroughly criticised. 

No wonder; in the interest of transparency, Wong and his colleagues have publicly discussed each option every time they come up with one. 

These cover such controversial options as reclamation, developing the fringes of country parks, redeveloping recreational sites such as the 170-hectare Fanling golf course, restoring landfills and even building on top of the Kwai Tsing container terminal.

How to get New Territories landowners to develop affordable housing

Now we know why Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor appointed the task force. Every option it proposes, however viable, especially if it is viable, is a minefield. It is bound to upset some powerful vested interests or others. 

It’s not for nothing that Lam has been a lifelong career civil servant, though her previous roles as Development Bureau head and chief secretary, and now chief executive, are outside of the civil service.

If nothing else, Lam knows one thing: you can’t get seasoned bureaucrats to do a proper job if it means painting a target on their backs. Just look at the respective reactions of the Hong Kong Golf Club and various green groups to proposals to build on the Fanling golf course and country park fringes.

Subsidised home pricing formula up for review as 144,000 vie for 4,400 flats

As has been pointed out in a recent letter by a reader who knows a great deal about land issues, “we employ over 4,000 professional civil servants in the Lands Department … What have the officials been doing for the last 21 years?”

Good question! But the point is, if some task force proposals work out and point to a way forward, Lam can take credit. If not, the task force can take the blame while our land bureaucrats go on their merry way.