Ma dismisses critics of major projects as scaremongers

Top News | Phoebe Ng Jun 19, 2017
Critics who brand massive infrastructure projects as white elephants are scaremongers and shortsighted, says Secretary for Development Eric Ma Siu- cheung.

Ma said the government is pressing ahead with such projects to raise the living standards of Hongkongers and maintain the SAR's competitiveness.

"Every project has an urgency and has its benefits," he wrote on his blog, adding infrastructure is closely related to Hongkongers' livelihoods. "Projects are called white elephants when the cost of upkeep is not in line with the economic benefit, which is clearly not the case here."

He added: "These [critics] are shortsighted with scaremongering thoughts."

Ma called on the public not to be misled by "alarmist" accusations.

"Disregarding infrastructure development overlooks Hong Kong's long- term benefits and comes at the expense of losing economic growth and competitiveness," Ma said. "These things are tightly connected with each other."

Ma said cross-border projects are essential to "improve connectivities" between Hong Kong and neighboring cities.

"Those projects are in line with our principles to keep up with our long-term competitiveness and economic growth," Ma wrote. "It is baseless conspiracy to say the projects are politically motivated."

Ma said it is too early to judge if ongoing major projects in Hong Kong are cost-effective.

But citing transport projects around Hong Kong International Airport as examples, Ma said most past public projects now serve the community daily and improve livelihood.

"Research has shown that every HK$1 million investment we put into transport projects generates HK$4.6 million [worth of] social and economic benefits," Ma said.

But Albert Lai Kwong-tak, policy convener of Hong Kong-based think tank Professional Commons, disagrees.

"What the public wants is more housing supply and the conservation of the environment," he said.

"Yet the government went ahead with cross-border infrastructure projects despite an apparent glut."

Cross-border road traffic between Hong Kong and Shenzhen now stands at 40,000 a day, almost six times less than the estimated 240,000 cars daily, Lai said. He added: "How would Ma explain that?"

Lai said the HK$248 billion spent on tax-funded cross-border projects, including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, could have been spent on public housing.

The bridge and Liantang control point cost HK$164 billion, while the SAR section of the Guangzhou- Shenzhen-Hong Kong rail link costs HK$84.4 billion.

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June 2017