19 April 2019
Imbalanced town planning, resource mismatch and uneven development has resulted in insufficient job creation in the New Territories, observers say.
Imbalanced town planning, resource mismatch and uneven development has resulted in insufficient job creation in the New Territories, observers say.

Time to reflect on our approach to developing New Territories

Though the New Territories is home to 41 percent of Hong Kong’s population, the region has only provided 24 percent of the city’s jobs. That means at least 40 percent of the residents in the New Territories have to spend hours commuting between their homes and their workplaces in other parts of Hong Kong on a daily basis.

Imbalanced town planning, resource mismatch and uneven development in the New Territories is a reason why the inter-district traffic congestion problem has been getting worse in recent years.

Unless the government can propel the regional economy in the New Territories and jumpstart the momentum of development in the region, there would be no end in sight to the traffic jam plight.

To truly develop the regional economy of the New Territories, the first and foremost thing the government must do is to ditch its top-down and outward-oriented approaches to economic development.

Instead, authorities should explore a path toward economic self-sufficiency based on the existing social and economic fabric of the society.

To put it more specifically, we can draw insights from the blueprint of creating an “intelligent, environmentally-friendly and resilient community” put forward by the “Hong Kong 2030+” study and build an ecologically friendly industrial park for start-ups in the North East New Territories area.

Unlike the conventional industrial park that features predominantly big manufacturing plants, the ecologically friendly industrial park can be a low-emission and bike-friendly green industrial zone dominated by start-ups specializing in bicycle manufacturing and engineering.

By creating a strong and solid industry chain that caters for the demand of local bike-loving consumers rather than mainland markets that are hundreds of miles away from us, I believe it would revitalize the economy in the New Territories, and above all, provide new jobs for local residents.

What I am proposing here is far from being just a fantasy: In the UK, for instance, a “bike city” known as the “Sportcity” lying 3 kilometers to the east of Manchester is already up and running.

The “Sportcity” is not only a popular site for bikers, but is also home to the major training facilities of the British national cycling team.

The latest Hong Kong government budget has earmarked HK$50 billion for the local tech and innovation sector, which appears quite encouraging at first glance.

Unfortunately, the kind of projects that the government will fund — such as the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, and artificial intelligence development programs — are exactly the kind of “top-down” and “outward-oriented” initiatives which I am very much against.

What we don’t need are initiatives that ignore our city’s unique social environment and the real needs of our local consumers and job-seekers.

The full article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 5

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Member of the Shadow Long Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, a non-governmental organization

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