Benefits of PRD bridge are touted
2009-March-24 Source: China Daily Website
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The construction of a bridge connecting Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai will help the less-developed western part of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) area thrive, but ports of Shenzhen will remain competitive, said researchers.

The long-awaited mega bridge, with an estimated investment of 72.7 billion yuan, has received final approval from the central government, as Premier Wen Jiabao announced at a press conference in mid-March that construction will start by the end of 2009.

The idea was first proposed more than 25 years ago by Hong Kong tycoon Gordon Wu in 1983. The first coordination meeting on the mammoth boundary-crossing project took place in August 2003.

The move is widely seen as part of the efforts of the central government to help the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions weather the financial crisis.

Zhu Yongling, chief of the coordination office for the bridge, told media recently that preparatory work has been accelerated to catch up with the construction schedule.

Normally it would take up to two years to design a project of similar size in a foreign country, but it will be just nine months for this bridge, according to a report by Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao.

"We will increase labor force and material resources to guarantee the quality and process as well," Zhu was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

For example, more than 20 machines have now been used for geology exploration in the design of the bridge from the original two, he noted.

New border-crossing infrastructure will speed up the integration of the PRD area, including Hong Kong and Macao, which aims to be a globally competitive and vigorous area in Asia Pacific by 2020, said Wang Guowen, a senior logistic researcher with China Development Institute, a Shenzhen-based consultancy company.

"With a direct route to link the west part of PRD area with Hong Kong, it could cut the transportation and storage costs, improve efficiency and increase the people flow," Wang said.

Currently it takes about three to four hours to travel from Zhuhai to Shenzhen, which provides the only land linkage with Hong Kong.

"It is estimated to cut the transportation cost by HK$1,000 for each container with the new bridge," Wang said.

Wang said he doesn't think the new bridge would reduce cargo flow to the Shenzhen port, which is the fourth-busiest in the world, since it has developed a complementary position with the Hong Kong port.

"The Shenzhen ports will continue to enjoy an advantage in price and Hong Kong ports are more flexible and highly efficient, though expensive," Wang said.

Exports from PRD cities, which will become more value-added after the financial crisis, will remain strong in the long run and could feed both ports, he forecast.

Xu Zongheng, mayor of Shenzhen, told a press conference recently that the city, which will not be connected directly with the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge, is not being isolated.

"Shenzhen would also benefit from a more developed PRD area," Xu told reporters.

The city, which borders Hong Kong, did factor into a previous bridge plan, but a less costly proposal was finally adopted.

According to the financing agreement reached by the three parties of Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong in August, construction of the major body of the bridge, which stretches 29 km, will cost about 37.4 billion yuan, of which 42 percent will come from government investment.

Specifically, the central government and the Guangdong provincial government will have a combined investment of 7 billion yuan, the government of Hong Kong will invest 6.75 billion yuan, and Macao will spend 1.98 billion yuan.

The rest will come from bank loans.

The coordination office for the project started accepting design bids in November, and the result will be announced in April.

Eva Cheng Yu-wah, secretary for transport and housing of Hong Kong, said in a previous press conference that banks from the three sites are still very interested in providing loans for the bridge despite the financial crisis.

However, some scholars have shown concern toward the plan.

"Since banks are tightening their lending rules, they may not be willing to bail the government out. They would be very cautious in their investment unless the rate of return is attractive enough," said Charles Li Kui-wai, associate professor of economics and finance from the City University of Hong Kong.

Editor: Yan
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