One benefit for the Hong Kong government in battling furiously to locate Mainland immigration checkpoints in the bowels of the West Kowloon High-Speed Rail Station is that it distracts everyone from the money wasted by the white elephant project.
The numbers are a blur, but we are probably talking something in the range of HK$100 billion. Quite a lot for a link that has marginal usefulness for most Hongkongers (I can foresee some weekend trips to some rarely visited Pearl River Delta backwaters).
And this is the Good Value part of Hong Kong’s ongoing infrastructure splurge.
The wretched HK-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge with its endless cost overruns seems to serve no purpose at all. Not being a rail link, it can’t improve on existing passenger ferries or imminent land links out of Shenzhen for buses. Car traffic will be limited by highway capacity at the Hong Kong end and cross-border licence restrictions. The Mainland factories and Hong Kong port that would generate container truck traffic are sunset industries. That’s another HK$100 billion-plus-plus. (Weirdly, officials are debating how high or low the tolls should be – like discussing the optimum price for dandruff.)
Both projects are mysteries. Were they intended primarily as a way to transfer huge amounts of Hong Kong people’s wealth into the bottomless pockets of the construction/engineering leviathan (largely comprising Mainland state-owned enterprises and often-privately-held local tycoons/cartels)? Or were they designed as symbols and possible engines of integration, merging Hong Kong and the Mainland mentally and physically, thus absorbing and eliminating the barbarian-tinted splittist excrescence?
If you reply ‘both’, you are probably right. It’s a happy coincidence. A ‘win-win’! And when that happens, you naturally want more.
Behold the HK$400 billion reclamation boondoggle to house 700,000 people who for some strange reason don’t appear in any population forecasts. The article refers to the government’s ‘threadbare’ logic. That’s the optimistic take. This looks more like the biggest crony-Communist mutual-cooperation carve-up ever: Give half the city’s entire fiscal reserves to our buddies, and swamp Hong Kong with enough ideologically perfect Han to smother Lhasa 10 times over. The good news is that you have a couple of decades’ warning.