Government should scrap misguided plans to develop Lantau

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 4:39pm

Government proposals to further develop tourism and housing on Lantau cling to the failed development models of the past and should be rejected.

The past decade has seen the Hong Kong economy boom, in part due to tourism, greatly benefiting big business. But for the average citizen, it has been a lost decade with annual real wage growth of 0.1 per cent over the past 11 years.

The single defining economic trend of the past decade has been the tripling of the tourism industry, with 10 per cent annual growth in visitor arrivals powering 30 per cent real growth of the economy over the past nine years.

Hoteliers and retail landlords have benefited greatly, as have the providers of merchandise, typically overseas consumer goods products. But this economic boom hasn’t filtered down to the citizenry.

Tourism has added a few jobs such as sales clerks and coach drivers. But these small gains are overwhelmed by the scourge of inflation caused by the tourist influx.

The average Hongkonger may not know real wages have stagnated at 0.1 per cent over this lost decade, yet they sense it intuitively. They see the shops they patronise for their needs going out of business, replaced by shops focusing on the tourist market. In the local shops that remain, they see ever-rising prices, as vendors pass on the added cost of ever-rising shop rents.

Yet Hongkongers are asked to bear the inconvenience of increased crowding in public areas, additional road and public transport congestion, and higher inflation. This situation has fuelled resentment and social and political unrest, and contributed to the schism that has grown between mainland China, the source of most of the tourism growth, and Hong Kong.

Mass market tourism has failed Hong Kong, and should be viewed as a sunset industry, treated with benign neglect at best. Proactively supporting the growth of mass market tourism – as envisaged by the Lantau Development Advisory Committee plans for development of cable cars, funiculars, and spa hotels – only contributes towards another lost decade for Hongkongers.

These developments will both damage Hongkongers’ ability to enjoy Lantau’s wonderful environment and landscape, and bring more unwelcome visitors, overcrowding, inflation and, ultimately, more wealth inequality and social unrest.

Our government should shelve its misguided Lantau development plans and refocus its energies on economic policies that benefit all Hongkongers, and not just the business community.

Frank Chandler, Yau Ma Tei