Developing a liveable city
Today is the third day of the Lunar New Year. May I wish you and your family a healthy and happy new year, and also booming businesses for all sectors!
In my Budgets over the past few years, resources have been allocated for various aspects, with a view to making Hong Kong a more liveable city and improving our living environment. In the coming years, the Government will continue to promote infrastructures development which are closely related to people's livelihoods, such as public housing, new town development, land development, hospital redevelopment, road and railway networks development, as well as enhancement of urban landscape. It is estimated that the expenditure of public works in the coming few years will exceed HK$ 100 billion each year1.
Facing the increasing construction volume in Hong Kong in the coming years, we have on one hand to ensure the works quality and control project cost, and on the other hand to complete the project on time for benefiting the public as soon as possible. The challenge is tremendous. In particular, we need to drive the construction industry to break through some bottlenecks, including the aging workforce and declining productivity. For this, we have been actively promoting the "Construction 2.0", promoting the wider use of innovation and technologies to "professionalise" and "revitalize" the construction industry.
Taking last year's Budget as an example, we have been investing resources in nurturing talents, strengthening project leadership and management, and taking forward digital works supervision system with a view to enhancing the efficiency and management of public works projects. Progress has been made in these measures over the past year.
Talents are always the key element to enhance productivity and competitiveness in any sector. Last year, the Legislative Council approved HK$ 200 million for the implementation of measures to strengthen construction manpower training in various trades of keen demand. These measures include (1) increasing the training allowance for trainees of the Hong Kong Institute of Construction's one-year full-time programmes from $3,600 to $4,800 per month to attract more youngsters to undertake systematic courses of construction training; (2) expanding the coverage of trades of keen demand under the Construction Industry Council Approved Technical Talents Training Programme (CICATP) by 7 trades to a total of 13 trades; and (3) offering incentives amounting to $10,000 per trainee in total to encourage in-service general workers to upgrade themselves to semi-skilled workers.
Centre of Excellence for Major Project Leaders
In addition, the experience and leadership capability of project leaders also directly affect the quality and cost-effectiveness of works projects. In the 2019-20 Budget, I supported the Development Bureau to establish the Centre of Excellence for Major Project Leaders (CoE) to strengthen the project delivery capability of major project leaders, so as to uplift the overall project performance. We appointed the Saïd Business School of Oxford University to conduct the first "Major Project Leadership Programme". The first cohort of about 50 candidates, including government directorate officers and major project leaders of public bodies, had completed the one-year course and were all well benefited. I hope that the epidemic will ease soon, and the CoE can organise a new cohort later this year for nurturing more major project leaders for Hong Kong.
Digital Works Supervision System
As announced in the Budget last year, all public works projects would adopt the Digital Works Supervision System (DWSS) in phases. In less than one year, about 60 public works contracts with a total value of more than 100 billion have already adopted the DWSS. More than 5,000 construction professionals are currently using the DWSS, which has greatly enhanced the efficiency of site supervision.
The market has currently developed more than ten DWSSs to cater for the needs of different projects, and most of these systems are developed by local digital enterprises. Many of these systems have adopted new technologies such as real-time remote monitoring, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, wireless sensor networks, and internet of things, so as to further enhance site safety, quality assurance, and efficiency of contract management etc.
Starting from this year, we will implement the integrated capital works platform in phases for capital works projects to enable real time monitoring by project officers on project progress and performance for enhancing the management of individual project as well as the whole Capital Works Programme.
Apart from enhancing the quality and efficiency of large scale public works, last year's Budget also allocated resources for the launching of various small works projects in different districts, such as improving the urban landscape to provide a better living environment for the public. At the same time, we strive to provide more up-to-date public services by riding on innovation and technology.
Over the past year, we have successfully extended our promenades by 1 km to 25 km as scheduled. The works departments have adopted the strategy of "Connect and Enhance", i.e. to carry out beautification works when releasing the harbourfront sites, so that the promenades can be open for public enjoyment as soon as possible. Taking the Watersports and Recreation Precinct in Wanchai North as an example. It only took seven months for the departments to complete the works of the 270km-long promenade. With innovative and open management, some time-limited creative installations, movable tables and chairs were put in the promenade, with a view to providing a more diverse, interesting and down-to-earth experience to users. Works departments will continue to adopt this approach in taking forward harbourfront development projects.
Living under the epidemic for a year, some of you may have the experience of using the "COVID-19 - Local Situation Dashboard" developed by the Government. With the application programming interface of related maps, we could understand the trend of the spread of virus more easily. In fact, this also reflected the value and application of geospatial data.
In the 2019-20 Budget, I allocated HK$300 million to promote a wider use of geospatial data in the society. The Development Bureau has started the design works for the system of the Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) portal since 2020, which will set out the standard of spatial data and explore different types of spatial data. Free download and open uses for the public are aimed at end-2022.
Under the leadership of the Chief Executive, the SAR Government has been working at our best to curb the spread of epidemic as soon as possible, so as to provide a more stable and favourable environment for the recovery of the local economy. Economic recession in the past year or so has brought pressure to our public finance. Nonetheless, we will not slow down our pace in developing the society. Whether it is about land development, expansion of railway network or hospital development, we have to work with perseverance in order to break through the bottlenecks and constraints, and bring solid improvement to the living environment. In the coming Budget, I will continue to allocate resources to invest for Hong Kong's future.
1. The total volume of construction (including private sector) will exceed HK$300 billion each year.
February 14, 2021