Ending the Spending
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
After Democratic parties won November's 2019 district election in Hong Kong, something interesting happened. Financial records and decisions made by the previously in-charge pro-Beijing political parties became more available to public scrutiny. This bodes well for Democratic parties as we look ahead to 2020 Legislative Council (LEGCO) elections, since there is much political mileage to be made from some dubious expenditure on grandiose projects.
1. As far back as 2015 residents of Lamma Island have been angry about the cost of a bike park adjacent to the wharf. Many residents felt the HK$24.8million expenditure was unnecessary and were outraged at the cost of the dedicated bike parking space for around 300 bicycles. There was also a cost over run on initial cost projections of nearly 25%. Other residents still prefer to park their bicycles on the wharf itself.
2. In the popular Kowloon tourist locale Tsim Sha Tsui, there are plans to create a mixed use underground space beneath Kowloon Park. However, critics of the plan ask why just 10% of the space created by the engineering project would eventually be available for public recreational use. It has been further argued that money ought to be spent on further integration of the various ethnic minorities that live in the district, on provision of business support, Cantonese language courses and other educational opportunities.
3. The thorny issue of bus shelters hit the headlines for residents of Quarry Bay in 2015. A project suggested by Eastern District Councillor and DAB member Eddie Ting Kong-ho gained HK$210,000 government funding for two poorly designed monstrosities that were not fit for purpose. The base of each shelter was so large it gave little space for commuters to stand and keep dry when it rained. A short time after they were put in place the much-ridiculed bus shelters were discretely removed.
4. Since 2013 residents and councillors in the Kwun Tong District have been battling over the funding and construction of a musical fountain intended to become a signature feature of the seaside promenade there. The project, supported by the pro-Beijing DAB party understandably drew ire with its HK$50 million price tag. Its opponents unsuccessfully tried to redirect the funds towards elderly care.
One newly elected pro-democracy councillor, Lester Shum, has said that there needs to be greater accountability and transparency in the management of District Council funds. There are bound to be other examples of questionable decisions and funding allocations that will make it harder for those parties responsible to maintain their political support.
[Footnote: Another project with a dubious spending record is the redevelopment of Sai Lau Kok Garden in Tsuen Wan. The garden, located next to the Tsuen Wan MTR station, was closed in November 2016 for its upgrade, and reopened in September 2019. A 2015 discussion paper for the redevelopment records an estimated cost of the work at HK$98.8million.]