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Carrie Lam's policy address 2018

Carrie Lam’s Lantau Tomorrow Vision is riven with contradictions that defeat its purpose

  • From its population estimates to financial planning, the project to create artificial islands to the east of Lantau by reclamation raises many questions
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 12:36pm

Seldom has so colossal a project costing so much been decided in so short a time after such shoddy analysis. The government will be requesting at least HK$500 million to undertake a feasibility study of the Lantau Tomorrow project, which involves reclaiming 1,700 hectares of land in the central water passageway off east Lantau. The government says this land will be used to build a township for up to 1.1 million people with 400,000 housing units and 340,000 jobs. The capital cost is estimated at HK$500 billion but could rise to HK$1 trillion.

Ever since the initial version of this project, the East Lantau Metropolis, was announced in 2014 by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, the core data provided by the government has been four numbers: the size of the reclaimed area, the number of residents, the number of housing units and the number of jobs created. On the basis of these four numbers, the government and supporters of the project make sweeping claims about how it will be a game-changer for Hong Kong. Yet, all their arguments run into contradiction.

Claim: Lantau Tomorrow will end the long wait for public housing and get people out of partitioned flats. Contradiction: It will not be ready for habitation for at least another 15 years, and will have no effect on the current housing shortage.

Claim: Lantau Tomorrow will meet the needs of population growth. Contradiction: According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong’s population will peak at 8.22 million in 2043 and decline to 7.7 million by 2066, while the project will provide excessive capacity, for a population of 9.4 million.

Claim: Lantau Tomorrow will create more living space, improving quality of life for residents. Contradiction: With 1.1 million residents on 1,700 hectares, the population density of 64,000 residents per square kilometre makes Lantau Tomorrow even more congested than Hong Kong’s most congested district, Kwun Tong, which has 57,000 residents per square kilometre.

Lantau project not just a question of money

Claim: Revenue from land sales will cover the cost of construction, making it a fabulous investment. Contradiction: Simple financial analysis shows that selling the land at a high enough price to make a profit will make the housing to be constructed on it unaffordable.

Claim: The project will aid integration with the Greater Bay Area, benefiting Hong Kong’s economy. Contradiction: No specific economic strategy is proposed, and there is no justification for another business district to be developed there.

Had Lantau Tomorrow Vision been presented to any bank or investor for funding, it would be laughed out of the room.

Tom Yam, Lantau