A new megaproject called “Lantau Tomorrow Vision”, which was included in Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s policy address last Wednesday, is expected to use up a significant portion of the city’s HK$1 trillion fiscal reserves.
While no official figures have been announced yet, the project is expected to cost HK$400-HK$500 billion, around half the reserves, according to government sources. The scheme involves large-scale land reclamation off Lantau Island.
However, some people, such as Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chief executive of the environmental group Green Sense, and Edward Yiu Chung-yim, former lawmaker representing the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, said the project could take up all of the city’s fiscal reserves.
At a RTHK phone-in programme last Friday, Lam defended her plan, saying “Reclamation to create new land for Hong Kong is unavoidable”. She added that, as chief executive, she had to find a way for Hong Kong to increase its land supply.
“Whether we want to have a more sustainable and assured supply of land is an issue that … the chief executive cannot shirk responsibility for,” she said.
Professor Linda Li Che-lan of City University believes the problem is affordability and distribution of the land, and that Hong Kong can afford the project. “There is a general consensus that we need land. No doubt about it,” she said. “I think the core problem is mistrust and a lack of confidence in the government to use the land for the people.”
She suggests the government monitor how the land is developed and consider introducing new laws before launching the Lantau project. To regain public confidence, Li said the government should fulfil its promise to use 70 per cent of the land for public housing.
However, Eunice Yip, 18, from Shue Yan University, opposed the plan. “Land reclamation will not do much good to Hongkongers,” Yip said. “The problem isn’t that we don’t have enough land, it is how we use it. A lot of unused lands are brownfields and [land grants for New Territories small-house policy], and yet the government wasn’t using them.
“Also, still giving out 150 passes daily to the mainlanders is insane. Hong Kong is already crowded and the government thinks it isn’t a problem.”
Claire Tse Man-ching, 14, of Pope Paul VI College is also concerned about the massive cost. “I am worried that spending most of the financial reserves will lead to the government to not having enough money for the elderly when my parents get old. They will have serious financial difficulties if I don’t have enough money for both my family and me.”
However, some remain optimistic. Cindy Tam Pui-shan, 17 from Methodist College is worried about the lack of fiscal reserves but she also says “Putting aside the worry of whether the blueprint of the project can literally be achieved, I do think the Lantau Island project is a good plan for Hong Kong future development. It is good idea that can solve the city’s housing issues.”