Ir Raymond Ho has moved in Legco today a motion on promoting infrastructure development. Whilst the objectives of the motion – to expedite infrastructure development, increase employment opportunities, enhance the overall competitiveness of Hong Kong and attain sustainable development – are in fact the stated aims of the government, the key actually lies in what is missing from the motion – a roadmap of what, how and when.
Whilst the Ten Infrastructure Projects are worthwhile pursuits, we should be cool-headed enough in understanding what will benefit us most, and what will not. For instance, by its own admission the government has pointed out that it could not finish site formation for the Lok Mak Chau Loop project until 2020. This throws doubt on whether the project can really help HK and the engineering profession in a timely fashion. Should we not urge the government to consider other development priorities, such as new development areas around Kam Tin and Yuen Long, and avoid being stuck in the mud?
The power of engineering should be deployed to meeting the needs of the Hong Kong people. In this time of financial tsunami and climate change crisis, we should try to forge a Green New Deal – creating green jobs whilst improving the environment. For instance, in the West Kowloon Cultural District project, we can bring in engineering innovations to create a low-carbon demonstration zone, by using district cooling systems, automated people-mover networks and micro-renewable energy. Engineers can show the way to a brighter future.
By focusing solely on the Ten Infrastructure Projects, we tend to forget that not all community members, and not all engineers, may benefit from mega-projects. We need coordinated policies to speed up both public and private investments in community projects that can bring early gains to the neighbourhoods. These may include the strengthening of the recycling industry, upgrade of energy efficiency in building stocks, addition of pedestrian walkways, improvement works to harbourfront promenade, roof greening and many others. Top policy makers should not be allowed to offer more excuses for delaying other sustainable infrastructure such as HATS II and waste-to-energy plants. To make this happen, we need policy breakthroughs not just from the Development Bureau, but also the Environment Bureau, the Transport Bureau, the Finance Bureau, and above all, a Chief Executive humble enough to bow to professional views.
Ir Raymond Ho may have good intention in moving such a motion. Yet during this time of crises, what the government needs is more foresight and innovation beyond conventional views. A dull and unimaginative motion will not help.
May I take this chance to wish all fellow engineers a merry Christmas, and extra strength to take us through the turbulent times in the New Year!
Ir Albert Lai
10 December 2008
[For details of Ir Ho's motion, pls click
In support of corporate social responsibility, Ir Albert Lai serves on the Judging Panel of the HK Sustainability Reporting Award for the sixth year at the invitation of ACCA.
Winners of the HK Sustainability Reporting Award 2008 include CLP, Swire Pacific, MTRC, Gammon Construction and The China Navigation Company.