Hong Kong workers will suffer if public works projects are delayed, lawmakers warned

Construction Association urges Legislative Council to cut out the time-wasting tactics and get on with the job of scrutinising proposals

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 10:04pm

The Hong Kong Construction Association has urged lawmakers not to indulge in time-wasting but to focus on scrutinising proposals for public works projects worth HK$90 billion in the coming year.

It warned of job losses and pay cuts if projects were delayed and, looking ahead, said the industry faced a shortfall of 50,000 workers in five years due to an ageing workforce and lack of new blood.

Thomas Tse Che-wah, the association’s chief executive, sounded the alarm bell on Thursday as he envisaged a downward trend in public projects over the next few years with the government failing to deliver a timetable for projects and the Legislative Council embroiled in more filibustering.

Move to end filibustering in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council

“The main problem is that the government hasn’t kicked off any consultancy studies for the future big projects such as Lantau Island’s development and southeastern New Territories development. Without taking this first step, how can we have an idea of the timetable?” he asked.

Tse said the government needed to roll out at least HK$70 billion worth of new public projects every year, subject to Legco’s approval, in order to keep the construction industry sustainable and the city’s development competitive.

“The construction of 10 major infrastructure works is approaching the end. To maintain the industry’s survival, we need HK$180 billion to HK$210 billion worth of construction projects from both the public and private sectors to be kicked off every year,” he said.

Eddie Lam Kin-wing, the association’s first vice-president, warned: “For the coming year, we expect Legco to approve HK$70 billion to HK$90 billion worth of public works projects.

“But if Legco continues to deploy filibusters to delay these projects or the government puts on hold some major projects to avoid courting controversy, I am afraid there may be lay-offs or pay cuts next year in the industry.”

Skilled workers in short supply in Hong Kong’s construction industry

Association president Allan Chan Sau-kit also raised concerns about the acute shortage of manpower in the industry as the government planned to build 90,000 public housing flats by 2021 and a further 190,000 from 2021 to 2026.

“At present the number of registered construction workers is about 410,000 with over 41 per cent aged 50 or above. There is a shortfall of 10,000 workers now. In five years these old workers may retire,” he said.

“Then how can the industry have sufficient manpower to cope with the overloaded burden in the latter half of the decade?”