Hong Kong artificial island’s potential as land source could be sunk by this
- The government’s tendency to go over-budget puts at risk even Hong Kong’s plentiful reserves stockpile
I write in response to those who, like Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, believe that the Hong Kong government’s proposal to build a 1,700 hectare artificial island off Lantau East would be like “pouring money into the sea”.
The government estimates the project to cost HK$500 billion, which is almost half of Hong Kong’s current fiscal reserves. Opponents of this mega project argue that budget blowouts are a common occurrence for almost all major government infrastructure projects. Their argument holds truth. For instance, the initial budget of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge stood at about HK$80 billion, but the final bill was around HK$120 billion. Similar cases of serious overspending include the MTR’s Sha Tin-Central Link – tainted also by shoddy works, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link , and the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point .
However, we cannot deny that the provision of more land would help promote economic growth. First of all, unaffordable rent resulting from a shortage of land is making small-to-medium-sized start-ups near-impossible to run and existing enterprises are struggling to sustain their business in Hong Kong.
So the provision of more land will substantially ease tensions on rents, and reasonably minimise the challenges and problems confronting business sectors, thus boosting financial growth. When business flourishes, incomes rise. Income will also be generated from land sales, property rates and tax, and economic activities on this newly created land. The 70 per cent quota for public housing also makes the proposal very attractive.
However, while a reclaimed new town in east Lantau is likely to be a blessing for Hong Kong’s economy and housing, we should be alert to the possibility of going over-budget, which might turn the gains into debts, and jeopardise any future government proposals.
Ariel Wong, Tai Po