HK’s troubled Ocean Park saved as lawmakers approve HK$5.4 billion relief fund

01-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s ailing Ocean Park will be bailed out by the taxpayer after the legislature approved a HK$5.4 billion (US$692 million) relief fund for the attraction to stay afloat for another 12 months.

After hours of debate, 32 legislators gave the nod to a lifeline for the home-grown theme park in Aberdeen amid fears of possible liquidation in June. Twenty lawmakers voted “no” and two abstained.

But the park still faces a bumpy ride to pick up business as the coronavirus pandemic has brought the city’s tourism industry to a standstill.

Officials were expected to come up with an initial plan on the resort’s future by the end of this year. Politicians suggested some of theme park’s land be used for commercial purposes to drive new sources of revenue for supporting its operations.

“We can’t see the tourism industry having recovering significantly in a year’s time,” tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said.

He suggested allowing the park to operate like the West Kowloon Cultural District, which sold part of its land for commercial use to earn income.

“Keeping the park running as a traditional attraction will not help much,” Yiu said, adding the government should take a greater role in the business.

The government first floated a HK$10.6 billion bailout plan in January before the coronavirus crisis and roughly halved its funding request this month because the resort faced a pressing financial situation during the Covid-19 epidemic.

It has been closed since January 26, shortly after the city confirmed its first infections.

The park thanked the legislature for approving the funding and promised to deploy the money prudently.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen suggested some of the park’s land could create business benefits and the money could support its other functions.

The park has been closed since late January. Photo: Winson Wong

On Friday, the government told the legislature that the park spent on average around HK$280 million on conservation and education per annum over the past five years, amounting to about 20.5 per cent of its yearly operating expenses.

During the same period, the business invested roughly HK$120 million on amusement rides on average each year about 8.5 per cent of its yearly operating costs.

It added the park’s main expenditure over the past five years was salaries. The average annual amount was around HK$690 million, about half of its operational cost.

Some opposition lawmakers were not happy with budget overruns for a project in Tai Shue Wan, which included a water park. By early 2020, construction expenses stood at HK$3.86 billion, far above the original budget of HK$2.29 billion.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick said: “In 2013, [the government] said it would not come to the legislature for funding again.”

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho had asked about the interest rate on its commercial loans, but the park’s deputy chair Lau Ming-wai said it could not disclose the details publicly.


Category: Hong Kong

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