FEARS in the wake of the Disneyland agreement that the SAR Government
is interfering more in the marketplace are unwarranted, Finance
Secretary Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said in London yesterday.
"Let me give you this cast-iron guarantee: we will never abandon our
basic private-sector philosophy of maximum support, minimum
intervention," Mr Tsang said.
The government has formed a joint venture with the Walt Disney Company
to build a theme park on Lantau Island. The deal gives the government
a 57-per-cent stake in the company, with the option to take on another
$4 billion in equity.
Mr Tsang acknowledged that some people may fear the deal signals a
move away from the tradition of not interfering in the marketplace.
Similar concerns were raised when the government gave the Cyberport
project to the Pacific Century Group without tender and when it
intervened in the stock market last year.
"What you are seeing are examples of the government reacting
judiciously to the manifestation of private-sector demands," Mr Tsang
Building Hong Kong Disneyland will require at least $22.45 billion of
taxpayers' money. Government officials, including Mr Tsang, have
argued that most of this taxpayers' money will be spent on
infrastructure at Penny's Bay on Lantau Island. The money would have
been spent even if there had been no Disney deal.
Other theme park operators, including Universal Studios, have
reportedly considered Hong Kong for future projects.
Democratic legislator Sin Chung-kai said the Disney deal was not the
same as Cyberport and the stock market intervention.
An open tender would not be viable given that few theme parks have the
drawing power of Disney.
"This is a unique product," Mr Sin said.
The Democrats opposed the Cyberport deal and the stock market
intervention on the ground that it upset the level-playing field of
the marketplace. That hasn't happened with Disney.
"You have to take it case by case," Mr Sin said.
Competition from other theme parks is growing.
Fox Studio Australia, a $1.8 billion theme park in Sydney, is
scheduled to open on Sunday .The centrepiece of the theme park is
based on the hit movie Titanic. It is expected to attract more than
1.5 million visitors a year.
Viacom, Paramount Pictures' corporate parent, is in a joint venture to
build a $1.8 billion theme park in Melbourne.
Universal Studios is building a $10.14 billion theme park in Osaka,
The $19.5 billion Tokyo DisneySea is scheduled to open in 2001, four
years before Hong Kong Disneyland.
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