Speech – Promoting the economic development of Lok Ma Chau and Lantau Island (Jeffrey Lam)

President, Hong Kong is a densely populated place with a large number of vehicles, and large shopping areas in districts such as Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui are particularly crowded during weekends and holidays. As there are few shopping areas over the territory, local people and visitors flock to these places for shopping.

Apart from urban shopping centres, many visitors prefer shopping at shopping centres in the Northeast New Territories and New Territories West in recent years. Besides buying clothes and jewelleries, some visitors buy daily necessities in Hong Kong because the quality of our goods is guaranteed. For this reason, the shopping centres along the railway line are packed with visitors pulling suitcases. This will definitely have impacts on local residents, including crowded shopping malls and soaring rents.

President, in the face of overcrowded tourist attractions spots and shopping malls, there are suggestions that we should not allow so many visitors coming to Hong Kong. I think this is a negative approach. A positive approach will be to develop large shopping centres and sales markets in other parts of the territory, especially in places near the border control points and the airport. This can meet the shopping needs of visitors and facilitate economic development. The Government should develop Lok Ma Chau as soon as possible. It should take advantage of the heavy flow of commuters at the border control point to set up a business and shopping area in Lok Ma Chau. In this shopping area, exhibition fairs similar to the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo can be held on a permanent basis to promote local brands and products which have all along enjoyed good reputations. Most importantly, setting up a business and shopping centre in Lok Ma Chau border control point can enhance the capacity of Hong Kong in receiving visitors, divert appropriately visitors to various places and promote the sustainable development of tourism in Hong Kong.

President, given its favourable conditions, Lantau Island should also be developed into another business, tourism and shopping centre. At present, with the airport and good transport facilities, the Tung Chung New Town, a theme park, the Big Buddha, as well as rich natural and cultural resources, Lantau should be developed into a place with unique tourist attraction and with large shopping centres. However, Tung Chung is now one of the poorer areas in Hong Kong with a lack of employment opportunities and shockingly high commodity prices. Food prices in Tung Chung markets are even higher than those in Happy Valley. In addition, the lack of local community facilities well reflects that the Government has failed to make full use of the existing resources and infrastructure on Lantau. I think the Government should set up an inter-departmental committee as soon as possible to formulate development plans for Lantau Island, improve the supporting infrastructure, increase the complementary retail, commercial and hotel facilities, as well as create employment and promote economic development in the area.

President, many foreign cities have constructed large commercial and shopping centres near the airport. With the commissioning of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge in 2016, the authorities should seize the opportunity of a surge in people flow to develop a bridgehead economy on Lantau. For example, large factory outlets can be established there to attract Mainland visitors and merchandisers from enterprises. Since Lantau has abundant tourism resources, it is appropriate for the authorities to promote eco-tourism, which will facilitate the development of Lantau into a sustainable community.

President, some economists estimated that, if we can take advantage of the existing opportunities and give full play to the economic benefits of tourism and commercial activities on Lantau, we can receive an additional contribution amounting to nearly $100 billion in the next 10 years. Conversely, if Hong Kong continues to lag behind the development of Hengqin in Zhuhai and Macao, the economic benefits of Lantau will then be received by these two places.

For instance, in respect of hotel facilities, it is estimated that Hengqin would provide over 15 000 hotel rooms in 2015; and it is also estimated that Macao would provide 50 000 hotel rooms in 2020. On the other hand, the numbers of hotel rooms on Lantau are lagging far behind those in Zhuhai and Macao, and there is not even a specific proposal on planning and development. Hence, it is essential for Lantau to quickly catch up, and increase the commercial, hotel and shopping facilities. Otherwise, the expression “Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao” that we are often using will later become “Zhuhai-Macao-Hong Kong”, because our competitive advantage may be dependent upon the present planning.

President, the Government needs to improve the infrastructure facilities on Lantau. This can provide local people with the opportunities for business start-up and employment, to make it more convenient for Tung Chung residents to work in new towns, without having to travel long distances to work in the urban areas. This is conducive to developing local economy and further promoting the tourism industry.

In addition, to solve the problems of insufficient land supply in the urban areas and alleviate overcrowdedness in the business districts, I think the Government has to expeditiously develop new areas to relieve the pressure of heavy people flow in the urban areas. The Government can also consider developing the underground space of the airport. It would be desirable for the Government to consider the use of the underground space while exploring the development of other sites on Lantau.

President, I so submit.


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