OHKF “INSIGHT FORUM” Series : Mr Gordon Wu: “Reclamation: Myth and Miracle”
(4 March, 2021, Hong Kong) The shortage of land, soaring property prices, and the wealth gap have posed a huge barrier towards upward social mobility. But the current economic slowdown presents the best opportunity to stimulate recovery through infrastructure development such as land reclamation.
Our Hong Kong Foundation (OHKF) organised the 15th session of “INSIGHT FORUM” with Mr Gordon Wu, Chairman of Hopewell Holdings Limited, who spoke on “Reclamation: Myth and Miracle”. Mr Michael Wong, Secretary for Development of the HKSAR Government, was invited as a special guest delivering an opening remark. At the forum, Mr Gordon Wu and guest panellists discussed the misconceptions of reclamation, and how it can be help strengthen the economy.
Reclamation Should Commence at the Earliest Opportunity as Infrastructure Development Spurs Economy Recovery
Mr Gordon Wu, a renowned engineer and infrastructure expert, has participated actively in mainland China’s infrastructure development since the 1980s, including the Guangshen Expressway, Humen Bridge, Shenzhen’s ports in Luohu and Huanggang, and other landmark projects in the Pearl River Delta region. Among the first Hong Kong business leaders to “go north”, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge was one of his visionary proposals that drives economic integration across the Greater Bay Area today.
Mr Wu highlighted that China had actively invested in large-scale infrastructure projects over the past 40 years, including a comprehensive national transportation network comprising bridges and high-speed railways, which fired up the country’s economic and social development.
On the contrary, Hong Kong, despite its affluence, has remained as the most unaffordable city in the world for years with a per capita living area of merely around 170 square feet—lagging far behind neighbouring regions such as Taiwan, Shanghai, and Singapore. “Sub-divided units and ‘nano flats’ have risen sharply in number in Hong Kong during recent years,” said Mr Wu, “Home ownership has become a dream beyond the reach for young people and even professionals.”
Amid the current economic downturn, it is a good time for Hong Kong to capture the upside potentials and promote infrastructure development. Citing successful examples of government-led reclamation in places such as Singapore and Qianhai in Shenzhen, Mr Wu urged that, “Hong Kong should begin reclamation and housing construction as soon as possible to improve the lot for our next generation.”
Lantau Tomorrow Vision Improves Housing, Livelihood, and Brings in Huge Fiscal Revenue
In 2018, the HKSAR Government announced the Lantau Tomorrow Vision—a project to build a 1,700-hectare artificial island in the waters off East Lantau with housing sufficient for 1.1 million people. As an ardent proponent of this project, Mr Wu called on the local community to support this large-scale reclamation.
“By creating new land for public housing, it will bring hope to Hong Kong people by creating wealth and reducing living cost.” He further pointed out that the waters off East Lantau would be a great site for reclamation because of shallow waters, access to fill materials from the nearby Chi Ma Wan, and its geographical proximity to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island which allows the new island to serve as a strategic transport hub connecting Hong Kong Island and the New Territories.
Mr Wu went on to emphasise that reclamation is by no means an act of “flushing money down the drain”. The project will instead bring financial revenue to Hong Kong’s public coffers and create decent living environment for citizens. Based on an assumed ratio of 60:40 between public and private housing supply, and a private land price of HK$5,000 per square foot, he estimated that Lantau Tomorrow Vision will generate hundreds of billions revenue for the Government through the sales of reclaimed land. If the Government does not seek to create new land, it will be difficult for young people to be homeowners. Should the actual population growth exceed the projected number, the Government will find itself facing severe difficulties on housing issue.
Hong Kong Must Reclaim Land to Co-prosper with Shenzhen
Shenzhen, locates just across a river near Hong Kong, last year celebrated its 40th anniversary since establishment. Shenzhen's rapid development inspires the entire nation. If Hong Kong is to co-prosper with Shenzhen, Mr Wu sees reclamation as absolutely necessary as creating more land is the only way for Hong Kong to solve housing shortage, giving hope to young people. He noted that reclamation is the least expensive option as Hong Kong has the talent, capital, and technology for it.
Mr Wu concluded by referring to Lantau Tomorrow Vision as a forward-looking and long-term investment. It will not only bring considerable revenue from land sales as well as 180,000 public housing units, but also play a counter-cyclical role during the economic downturn through driving active business investment in infrastructure projects, creating multiple grass-roots and professional jobs to shore up employment rate, and injecting new impetus into economic development.
“Reclamation: Myth and Miracle”
Full live webinar: https://youtu.be/bPCfR2xYTH8?t=345