Better engage the public in plans for ‘Greater Bay Area’

There is obviously more to the initiative than just urging Hongkongers to take a dip in mainland hot springs or buy a retirement home across the border. But exactly how Hong Kong can contribute and benefit remains unclear to the people

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 May, 2017, 12:41am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 May, 2017, 12:41am

Hong Kong has for years looked down on cities across the border. So it is no surprise that the calls by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po for people to enjoy mainland hot springs more often or live in Chinese cities have been greeted with a pinch of salt. Chan was just explaining what the “Greater Bay Area” development means to the people. But the scepticism shows that there is a need for a better articulated development plan.

The idea of better coordinating city development within the Pearl River Delta region is not new. But the city’s resistance to greater integration with the mainland means cooperation remains ad hoc and piecemeal. The momentum escalated after the concept was formally acknowledged by Premier Li Keqiang in his work report to the National People’s Congress in March.

With US$1.36 trillion of GDP and a population of 100 million, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area has great development potential. The government is to be commended for seizing the opportunity to better define the city’s positioning and development strategy in the region. Details will be fleshed out for submission to the National Development and Reform Commission.

Finance chief raises possibility of more people living in ‘Greater Bay Area’ and commuting to Hong Kong

Local residents and businesses have long been taking advantage of the opportunities on their own. It is estimated that some 300,000 Hongkongers are currently working in the area. The community is even bigger after taking into account students and retirees from the city. The trend is expected to intensify upon the commissioning of a few more cross-border transport links in the coming year or so.

Our neighbours were advancing rapidly regardless of whether or not Hong Kong became part of the bay area development. The tight timetable for submission to the national body means the task cannot be deferred to the new chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. But it is important that the incoming and outgoing leaders maintain close communication for the sake of continuity.

There is obviously more to the “Greater Bay Area” than just urging Hongkongers to take a dip in mainland hot springs or buy a retirement home across the border. Exactly how Hong Kong can contribute and benefit from the initiative remains unclear to the people. The public needs to be better engaged.

The central government has pledged to adopt concrete measures to promote development in the region. Given the nine major cities are each striving to move ahead, competition is inevitable. This is why it is in Hong Kong’s own interest to step forward. It is up to each city to map out its development strategy according to its strengths, which in turn can contribute to national development.