People from poorest province are banking on rich pickings in HK

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 April, 2011, 12:00am


They come from the poorest province on the mainland, but they dream of one day becoming an investment magnet to rival the Pearl River Delta.

A prefecture in picturesque southeast Guizhou, the poorest province by per capita gross domestic product, is looking for as much as 560 billion yuan (HK$665 billion) from Hong Kong entrepreneurs.

With a population of 4.5 million - 82 per cent of them ethnic minorities - the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture is seeking funds for 282 projects, covering industries from agriculture and tourism to property and infrastructure.

They are big ambitions for the prefecture, famous for its karst landscape and well-preserved forests as well as rich culture.

The entire province's gross domestic product last year was only 460 billion yuan. Per capita GDP in ethnic regions such as Qiandongnan is only two-thirds of the provincial average.

The area's development has lagged behind due to 'geographical and historical' reasons, party secretary of the prefecture Liao Shaohua said. Underscoring the remoteness of the prefecture, the investment delegation to Hong Kong had to drive for nearly two hours to Guiyang, the capital city, then flew to Shenzhen.

But investors seem to be keen to put their money there.

Liao said in the first three months of this year the prefecture had signed 280 contracts with external investors, and contracted investment had reached 58 billion yuan.

Fan Zhongsheng, head of the prefecture's tourism administration, said the delegation had 68 potential projects in the tourism sector and was hoping to reap more than 100 billion yuan.

'Projects include the turning of ethnic villages into tourism destinations and construction of hotels and golf courses,' he said. The area may also helped by the fact that locations away from the populated coastal areas are becoming more attractive for cost-conscious manufacturing companies.

Sam Cheng, deputy general manager of Fu-Sun Electronics, a Hong Kong company that produces loudspeakers in Zhejiang province, said: 'The good thing about working in the west is that labour resources will be stable as the workers are local.'

But he said there were some areas of concern in Guizhou, adding that its 'traffic may still need some improvement'. The prefecture's one airport offers six flights per week to Guiyang and four flights to Guangzhou.

A second airport is under construction and will be finished in three years, said a Qiandongnan official.

China's average per capita GDP reached US$4,000 last year, while Guizhou province - the poorest of all the 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on the mainland - was barely US$1,700, less than half the average for the mainland.

It is the only province where per capita GDP failed to reach US$2,000.

Guizhou is not the only province seeking Hong Kong money. In March a delegation from Fujian signed US$8.66 billion worth of deals in the city. Last year, Hainan sought 57 billion yuan to boost its service sector.

Hard times

Guizhou province

Number living in poverty (province is home to 15 per cent of nation??s poor): 5 million

GDP per capita, the lowest in China: US$1,735

GDP per capita in ethnic minority areas (just 62% of the province??s average): 7,470 yuan

Proportion of people living in urban centres (national average is 46.5 %): 29.9%

Total GDP last year: 460 billion yuan