A bridge too far?

Construction is due to begin on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge before the end of 2009. The proposed 29 kilometre bridge, which is expected to cost in the region of $2 billion to $3.7 billion US dollars, is a series of bridges and tunnels that will connect the west side of Hong Kong with Macau and the neighbouring city of Zhuhai which is part of mainland China’s southern industrial epicentre.

Gordon Wu, the chairman of Hopewell Holdings Ltd, has been an outspoken advocate of the project for over 20 years, after the rapid economic growth of China and Hong Kong in the early 1980’s caused an increased demand of cross-border traffic leading to an agreement between the Hong Kong government and Shenzhen authorities to improve connections by opening road links. It is hoped that the development will help ease congestion at Lo Wu, which has long been the main node linking Hong Kong and Shenzhen on the west bank of the Pearl River. The Hong-Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Advance Work Co-ordination Group was established in 2003 to conduct a feasibility study for the potential economic, socio-economic, and environmental impacts of such a massive project.

In economic terms advocates suggest that cutting travel times between the East and West banks of the Pearl River will lead to an expansion of southern China’s access to global markets through Hong Kong, and in return Hong Kong will benefit from an exponential increase in the flow of labour, goods and capital from China and the rest of the world. However there are some potential drawbacks, particularly for Hong Kong. It has been pointed out that Hong Kong and Macau are direct competitors for income from tourism, and the bridge will mean that tourists from China will be able to bypass Hong Kong via the bridge to Macau, thus depriving it of the stopover visitors on which its tourism industry thrives.

In the meantime, the construction of the bridge itself will give an enormous boost to the construction industry of both countries, which could help alleviate unemployment and underemployment that may in turn boost the economies of both regions.

John Edwards

Tuesday 25 November 2008
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