Letter To Hong Kong (Ir Dr LO Wai Kwok)

Dear fellow Hong Kong engineers,

Good morning!

During the LegCo election canvass earlier this year, I have met many young engineers and most of them are asking the same question: what is the prospect of engineers in Hong Kong?

I don’t have a magic ball to tell you the answer, but engineering does play a pivotal role in contributing to Hong Kong’s success and prosperity, and engineers have transformed Hong Kong from a small fishing village to a cosmopolitan city with world-class infrastructures.

I was borne in the 50’s of the last century in a grass root family in Kowloon City. When I was one year old, a major fire on Christmas day of 1953 destroyed the Shek Kip Mei shantytown, leaving more than 50,000 people homeless. After the fire, the Hong Kong Government commenced a programme of mass public housing, providing affordable homes for those on low incomes.

The Government put forward its first long term housing strategy in 1987, and announced white papers on Long Term Housing Strategy in 1998 and in 2014 respectively. They set out the directions of public and private housing supply in Hong Kong.

As we all know, Hong Kong is short of space. So, the Government updated the HK2030 Study and released the “Hong Kong 2030+: Towards a Planning Vision and Strategy Transcending 2030” this month, with an aim to balance social, economic and environmental needs to achieve better quality of life for present and future generations.

When times are good or bad, engineers are called on to find solutions. Having been in the engineering profession for more than a third of a century, I understand not just the needs but also the social responsibilities of our profession. I strongly believe that engineers can strike the right balance among practicality, safety, quality, cost and sustainability; and the balance between “development” and “conservation”.

In recent years, the Government has proposed various measures to increase land and housing supply, to meet the target of providing 460000 units in the coming 10 years.

According to the forecast at the end of October 2015, the overall construction expenditure forecasts over the next few years will reach $170-$200 billion per year.

Investment in the Capital Works Programme accounts for a long-term average of about 3.4% of the real GDP.

There are plenty of construction-related jobs arising from different mega projects, such as expansion of Hong Kong’s railway network, the third runway of the airport, as well as developments in West Kowloon and Kai Tak, etc.

As Hong Kong continues to grow, it needs more young and bright citizens to enter the profession of engineering to help solve our current and future problems. There will be a lot of opportunities for our engineers in our local infrastructural development. At the same time, we also see that the “Belt and Road Initiative” of the Mainland government will spur a steady stream of projects for our profession.

An important element of the “Belt and Road Initiative” is infrastructural construction. Both the “Belt” and “Road” involve substantial construction and engineering services such as feasibility studies, site investigations, design, construction, supervision, testing and commissioning, to be furnished by engineers and other related professionals. Hong Kong is famous for its engineering talents, the best standards and code of practices, and the best designs, construction practices and infrastructure in the world.

We have world-class companies that are highly experienced in infrastructural projects. Hong Kong has the world’s fifth busiest container port, and its airport is the world’s busiest air cargo hub. They have well-deserved reputation for safety, efficiency and governance.

The “Belt and Road Initiative” will bring an increase in demand for professional services, especially in the fields of architecture, engineering, science and technology. Since the opening-up of China’s market in the 1980’s, Hong Kong architects and engineers have already played a major role in infrastructure construction in the Mainland. Many of these professionals have acquired experience both in the Mainland as well as in foreign markets.

We need to formulate policy and make corresponding resource investments, to showcase Hong Kong’s professional service branding to countries in the region, to strive for international recognition of Hong Kong’s professional qualification and qualities, to assist Hong Kong’s professionals in setting up offices outside Hong Kong and provide one-stop consultation and support services, to take forward professional service co-operation in the region.

The Government should actively encourage engineering companies in Hong Kong to jointly bid overseas projects with Mainland enterprises and assist Hong Kong science and technology enterprises in participating in regional co-operative research and development projects.

That is why I repeatedly expressed my view no matter at the LegCo or other occasions that we should strive for the inclusion of the “Belt and Road Initiative” as a vision of economic development of Hong Kong. We should promote high-value-added services and encourage diversification.

Dear fellow engineers, Hong Kong is home to over 7 million people, and the population is increasing. Hong Kong must strive for sustainable development and create more opportunities of upward mobility for the new generation. This, I think, is a common vision shared by all. There may be different views on the specific direction or approach of development, but home is still home, and we cannot build a better home without long-term overall planning, especially long-term infrastructure planning.

We have a great deal to accomplish, and the world is waiting. So let’s get started.


Yours sincerely,

Ir Dr Lo Wai Kwok


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