The Deluge Ahead

Jack So, Convenor of The

Working Group on Convention and Tourism Industries (“WGCTI”) under the Economic

Development Commission (“EDC”), has forecast that Hong Kong’s hotel capacity in

the next decade will have to double to meet with expected surging demand.

Of the four working

groups formed at the beginning of this year under the EDC, the WGCTI is the one

that stinks of developers’ interests. Everybody in Hong Kong knows who stand to

benefit most from unchecked mainland tourist inflows. More tourists from up

north mean more retail rent and hotel dollars will flow right into the pockets

of gargantuan retail-landlords-cum-hotel-owners, who incidentally are the

mammoth developers. As for job creation, which tourism promotion is supposed to

bring about, university graduates had better get psychologically prepared that

their best job prospect will be to become retail salespersons or hotel page

boys or chambermaids or security guards. One caveat is that if they don’t speak

Putonghua, they are not even competent enough for the said posts.

Did anyone notice that

no similar ambitious plans have ever come forth from the Working Group on

Manufacturing Industries, Innovative Technology, and Cultural and Creative

Industries, which at least sounds just as important, if not more, as the WGCTI?

This other Working Group might well be in a position, if they are in their

right mind, to help Hong Kong move away from the parasitic rent-seeking

industry towards a more diversified, enterprising and creative economy that can

offer diversified jobs or self employment opportunities for young and old. A

prerequisite of course is the abandonment of the high land price policy. In

fact, the WGCTI does not need to exist at all because Hong Kong doesn’t need to

promote its tourism industry, which is in fact an alias for the property

development industry.

When government announced the establishment of the EDC on

January 17, 2013, it was stated that:-

"’The establishment of the Commission and

its Working Groups reflects the Administration's determination to continue to

make the best use of Hong Kong's existing edges and also explore new advantages

and develop new strengths. We are looking forward to the wise counsel of the

Commission for drawing up an overall industry policy with a view to creating

jobs and improving people's livelihoods,’ a Government spokesman said.”

The goals are clear

enough: create jobs and improve people’s livelihoods.

Jobs that tourism can

possibly create are at best dead-end low-paid jobs as mentioned above. Would parents

in Hong Kong like to see their educated children stuck in such jobs?

As for improving

people’s livelihoods, it’s clearly one big joke. Money from the north has

already pushed property prices and rents, both residential and commercial, to

such preposterous levels that more and more low-income Hong Kongers are being

forced to live in subdivided flats and more and more local neighborhood shops

are being forced to close to give way to jewelry and luxury goods shops

catering for mainlanders. Subsidized public rental and HOS flats would take

years to complete. Subdivided flat rents are set to soar higher and eventually

throw renters out on the street because government refuses to impose rental

control. Closing of small neighborhood shops means middle- to low-income people

lose the cheaper choices in daily necessities ranging from a simple

cha-chaan-teng (café) meal to groceries to household equipment to household repair

services. The individual-visit scheme, over which the SAR government seems to

have no control regarding the number of mainland tourists that can be allowed

in each day, is one big culprit for the dire situation Hong Kong now finds

itself in.

As one blogger points out: by all means build more hotels, but

what about the overcrowded MTR train cars and roads? What about the day-to-day

nuisance that floods of jostling, luxuries-or-safe-product-seeking mainland

tourists cause the locals, not to mention the impudent rudeness and uncivilized

habit of some of these tourists from up north?

Can Hong Kong possibly

satisfy even a fraction of 1.3 billion people’s need for safe products

(obviously not limited to milk powder)? The ultimate answer obviously is for

the mainland government to better monitor their own safety standards of food or

other products. As for their demand for luxury goods, the solution is easy

enough. Either the mainland government lifts their import duty or the HKSAR

government slaps such a duty on luxury goods. Problem solved if they will only

do it.

If the WGCTI expects to

double Hong Kong’s hotel capacity in the next 10 years in anticipation of a

surge in the number of incoming tourists, it probably means that it will also

want more mega shopping malls. Thus, there is an imminent competition for a lot

more commercial-zoned land at a time when land supply is said to be short for

providing public housing.

So, when CY Leung’s administration

talks about improving people’s livelihoods, whose livelihoods are they really talking

about? Those overpaid senior government officials and the business big shots

sitting on this and that Commission have no idea what it’s like to be squished

in the MTR train cars on sweltering summer days. They in their chauffeured cars

don’t know how it feels to be shoved about by boorish mainlanders and to have

luggage wheels run over their feet on the streets day in day out. So they come

up with ludicrous policies in their ivory towers with their minds and hearts

shut.

It always comes back to

the same big important question: is the HKSAR government accountable to Hong

Kongers or to mainlanders?