Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Let them eat concrete...

Hong Kong has a long tradition of turning to major infrastructure projects when the people are feeling gloomy. In the aftermath of Tiananmen Square in 1989, then Governor Sir David Wilson announced the construction of a huge new airport at Chep Lap Kok.

Today it was Sir Donald "bow tie" Tsang's turn. In the face of ugly markets, a particularly embarrassing local twist to Lehman's demise and general public grumpiness, he appears to have let the Hong Kong Trade Development Council have their way with a probable Phase III development of the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre. In his policy address today, he said:

To maintain our position as a convention and exhibition capital, we need to increase the exhibition area of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). The atrium link expansion of the HKCEC will be completed next year. The Government and the TDC are examining the feasibility of a Phase 3 expansion of the HKCEC at a nearby site. We will embark on detailed studies and public consultation as soon as possible.

That is very project-specific and appears to push back indefinitely plans for a Phase II at the AsiaWorld-Expo venue located out at the previous feel-good infrastructure project, the Hong Kong International Airport. That site is majority owned by the HK government but with minority ownership from French-owned Dragages Hong Kong and others. It's biggests users are Global Sources, founded and controlled by an American and the HKTDC's biggest rival for over 30 years.

The HKTDC was unable to contain its pleasure over the government's decision with an immediate press release saying that "The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) warmly welcomes the Government's decision as communicated in the 15 October 2008 Policy Address to examine the feasibility of a Phase III expansion of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) at a nearby site".


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