Policy on improving links with Guangdong lacks vision and is ad hoc, according to a senior economist. Professor Sung Yun-wing, head of the economics department at the Chinese University, said Tung Chee-hwa had never given an overall vision for integration with the Pearl River Delta, despite pledges to strengthen ties with the mainland. 'The articulation of such a vision is important because it would set the basis of a community-wide debate which would raise the awareness and far-reaching implications and potentiality of deep integration with the mainland,' he said at a seminar on development in Hong Kong and the delta region held at the university. Professor Sung said the Government had not worked hard enough to push for better links across the border since the handover. 'Despite the many joint committees established, the present co-ordination is quite ad hoc and reactive, lacking in overall vision and strategy. For instance, 24-hour operation of passenger checkpoints is long overdue,' he said. One of the committees he was referring to was the Hong Kong-Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference, co-headed by the Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Guangdong's Vice-Governor Wang Qishan. It was announced by Mr Tung in his Policy Address in 1997 and set up in March 1998. 'The conference was supposed to meet twice a year. However, it has not met since September 1998 due to a lack of items to discuss. This is a sign that the Government has not been very active in pushing for co-ordination with Guangdong,' he said. Another committee named was the Hong Kong Mainland Cross-boundary Major Infrastructure Co-ordinating Committee, established in October 1997, which is to take over the infrastructure agenda of its predecessor established in 1994. 'However, it should not be assumed that Hong Kong's reversion will solve the problem of co-ordination,' Professor Sung said, referring to the duplication in infrastructure facilities in the region. But he said the Government was not the only one to blame. 'For instance, neither Beijing nor the provincial government of Guangdong has been able to rationalise the many airports and seaports put forward by the local governments of the Pearl River Delta'. On immigration, Professor Sung attacked stringent controls on migration across the border as inconsistent with Hong Kong's long-term integration with the delta. Control on migration of mainlanders should be relaxed, with requirements on length of residency imposed to reduce the burden on social welfare. Hong Kong residents or retired people should be encouraged to move to Shenzhen to relieve population pressure, he said. However, Edgar Cheng Wai-kin, head of the Government's most influential think-tank, the Central Policy Unit, said the different systems in the SAR and the delta region made ties delicate. 'Hong Kong Government officials do not hold sway over their regional counterparts and must, and do, treat them duly as important equals. Likewise, delta officials cannot, and do not, leverage any of their political prerogatives on Hong Kong, if only because of the sheer weight of economic power vested in the SAR. 'This interesting balance makes co-operation between Hong Kong and the rest of the delta region at the governmental level possible on one hand and most delicate on the other.' Mr Cheng said patience, mutual understanding and respect were needed. 'It is a challenge to all officials in Hong Kong and the delta who have the eagerness to look beyond the confines of their political-administrative boundary to bring synergies and mutual benefits to the people in the entire city-region,' he said in his opening remarks at the two-day seminar.