Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Mickey Mouse Gets the Last Laugh

Disneyland has the upper hand in negotiations with Hong Kong
Hong Kong taxpayers are left holding the bag yet again thanks to Disneyland managing to bully us into shelling out HK$5.45 billion for an extension to the amusement park.

That's because the Hong Kong government is the biggest shareholder and was somehow unable to negotiate a fairer deal when Disneyland had a "take-it-or-leave-it" ultimatum.

Even lawmakers of all stripes felt the government should have gotten a better deal. They must be terrible negotiators.

The lawmakers said if the government was going to finance half of Disneyland's six-year renovation, it should be subject to better shareholding, financing and management arrangements with the entertainment corporation. But on Tuesday the Legislative Council's finance committee approved the funding by 30 to 24 votes.

Commerce minister Greg So says we did the best we could...
Pan-democrats had tried to filibuster, but after five months of bickering and lobbying, the government's funding application was passed.

"I am delighted that the finance committee approved the expansion plan," said Commerce Secretary Greg So Kam-leung. "We have gone through a lot of analysis. We have also pushed very hard in the negotiation. We believe that this package is really the best package that we can achieve."

Does anyone believe him?

Meanwhile Disneyland released a statement saying it was "grateful" to secure Legco support.

The HK$10.9 billion expansion project, with the other half financially covered by Disneyland, will start next year, and will have themed zones based on the animation hit Frozen, and Marvel superhero films, as well as a revamp of the Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Many believe the partnership between the Hong Kong government and Disneyland is unequal, because the latter receives millions of dollars in royalties and management fees even though the park continues to lose money.

How about spending $5.45 billion on social housing instead?
Before the final vote, pro-establishment lawmakers rejected more than 40 motions by the pan-democrats, including requests to disclose more of the theme park's financial figures, give more discounts to Hong Kong people, as well as review further economic benefits to Hong Kong.

"We are very disappointed. I am sure it won't be the last time that Disneyland asks for money from Legco," says Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, accusing those who approved the funding of ignoring public concerns.

Why is the government spending so much money on a money-losing proposition? One financial columnist even boldly suggested the Disneyland site should be bulldozed and made way for social housing. The infrastructure is already there!

The HK$5.45 billion could be better used in so many other ways, like revamping the education system and helping underprivileged children get the extra resources they need to have a decent education so that they can have a leg up in life.

That money could also be used for social housing, to build or convert brown sites into affordable housing for people so they don't have to live in subdivided flats.

But this isn't the foresight of the government, whose priority seems to be solely focused on tourists and not on the livelihoods of its own people.

Disneyland may like to describe itself to be the happiest place on earth, but not for Hong Kong taxpayers.

2 comments:

  1. Add "Mainland Chinese" in front of "tourists" in the following line -- "...the government, whose priority seems to be solely focused on tourists and not on the livelihoods of its own people" -- and the picture becomes all the more clearer. :S

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    1. Well that's what I had in mind when I wrote "tourists"... because they only seem focused on one group...

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