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dev - Delaying Public Works Hurts Everyone
With ongoing infrastructure projects running at full stream, it seems construction workers are busy all over Hong Kong, working non-stop on railways or bridges come rain or shine. Hong Kong is famous for its efficiency and quality, and it is no exaggeration to say that our infrastructure is among the best in the world. The World Economic Forum has again ranked Hong Kong first in the world in terms of infrastructure for the sixth consecutive year. Our city’s infrastructure development is so good that many countries try to emulate our model.
Infrastructure is crucial for any city, because it improves the lives of citizens and also drives economic growth. According to research by the World Bank, a 10% increase in infrastructure investment adds 1% to 5% growth in GDP annually. Unfortunately, the lack of progress being made on infrastructure projects in Hong Kong in recent years has become alarming, due to filibustering preventing the Legislative Council from approving crucial funding needed to get projects started.
In the current legislative session, the Government is ready to launch 72 capital works projects with a total estimated value of $67.5 billion. Only five of those projects have so far been discussed by the Public Works Subcommittee. Out of those five projects, only two funding proposals had been approved by the Finance Committee as of the end of January. This represents just 3% of the total, involving around $5.6 billion.
If filibustering and delays continue, urgently needed projects worth some $600 billion will be held up. This not only slows down the development of infrastructure in Hong Kong, but also causes the cost of projects to escalate. The public also suffer because projects to improve or expand existing infrastructure facilities to meet the demand of the growing population cannot go ahead. Eventually, everyone is hurt and the delays will have a direct impact on Hong Kong’s competitiveness and attractiveness to investors for many years to come.
The delays in funding approval in turn spawn additional funding requests to the Legislative Council every year because projects that start late end up having out of date budgets. People involved in projects also suffer, because they are under more pressure to accomplish more than the original timetable proposed. Projects that become bogged down in filibustering or political bickering can also result in construction workers finding themselves unemployed as they cannot do their jobs. Even engineers responsible for architectural and supervisory work are affected.
While I understand that legislators rightly do not want to see the projects end up being a huge waste of money or turn into white elephants, it is obvious that some legislators are objecting for the sake of objecting, which benefits no one. It is imperative that Hong Kong’s infrastructure projects are given the green light to address today’s needs and well as those of tomorrow. We all have a responsibility to build a better future for Hong Kong. Both our city and our citizens cannot and should not have to suffer any more delays or filibusters.
Posted on 2020/02/18