Who are the stakeholders in HK's development projects?

Updated: 2012-11-15 17:25

By Thomas Chan in Hong Kong (China Daily)

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Who are the stakeholders in HK's development projects?

There are two meanings of stakeholders: those who will be affected by development projects, and those would benefit from the projects. The two groups might be two sides of the same coin, but in Hong Kong in recent times, the two groups have been distinguished by their attitudes towards the projects. The first group usually is opposed to the project or demanding sweeping modifications. The second group favors completion of the projects as quickly as possible.

Take Lung Mei man-made beach project as an example. There are those who reside in the villages nearby the present Lung Mei beach. They may be home owners, including native villagers and new comers who arrive from other parts of the city, probably from urban areas, and they may be tenants undertaking a short term tenancy without long term commitments to the villages and their surrounding environs.

There are others who may directly or indirectly benefit from the proposed project. In the present example, the project supposedly will bring in more tourists and local visitors, meaning greater demand for business and residential facilities in the proximity to the project. Business revenues will increase, rental rates and the selling prices of homes will go up.

There also are residents in the many villages and residential estates along Ting Kok road, who will be within less than 15 minutes traveling distance to the planned beach, and thus enjoy easy connectivity and accessibility. It will be expected that the increase in rental and selling prices of nearby residences will have a positive effect, although in an inverse relation to the traveling distance from the project.

For those values, the project favors businesses and asset investment projects more than other interests. Those groups will be very much in favor of the project with its possible enhancement of the locale's attractiveness.

However, the benefits of possible asset appreciation may also bring in over-crowding and traffic congestion, which are already present during weekends and public holidays in the Tai Mei Tuk area near the Plover Clove Reservoir which has been a very popular tourist area.

To some who want to escape the urban congestion of Hong Kong, the quietude and peacefulness of the local environment are the very quintessence of rural living. To them the area should be kept as it is. Quality of life is much better than appreciation of their residential assets, especially for those who are only tenants.

There also has been the emergence in Hong Kong of many environmentalist groups, who have made their presence felt in the Lung Mei project. They are concerned with all kinds of environmental issues in Hong Kong and do not confine themselves to their localities. In fact they are "fighting" for ecological conservation all over in Hong Kong and take up the role as the guardian of the local environment. They may be regarded as altruists, however they are at risk of becoming extremist fundamentalists fighting any development that changes the local environment.

The coastal ecology of Lung Mei was fundamentally altered by the construction of the Plover Cove Reservoir in the 1960s. What the activists are trying to protect is the relatively recent ecological system that evolved in the past 50 years, an extremely short time in the ecological calendar.

Should the value of preserving such a recent eco-system be greater than other values like the increase in business revenues for local businessmen and the fortunes brought to the existing house owners in the area from asset appreciation?

In addition, the construction of the proposed beach will enhance the tourist attractiveness of the area and be an asset for people living in other parts of the territory for sight-seeing and strolling as well as good sun bathing and swimming in the man-made beach.

Everyone can claim to be a stakeholder in the Lung Mei proposed beach project. Residency in the area could not be the sole criterion. Every citizen and non-citizen of Hong Kong could claim to be a stakeholder whose values ought to be considered. The government and the community at large have no criteria concerning the project that could be commonly agreed. This is the true dilemma for all local development projects in Hong Kong in a transparent and democratic society.

The author is head of China Business Centre, Hong Kong Polytechnic University.