Pearl River Delta governments must improve links or risk being beaten by Shanghai, a Guangzhou seminar is told Pearl River Delta cities must improve their co-ordination or risk losing out in the race to make the region China's economic centre, a conference in Guangdong was told. A spokeswoman for the Central Policy Unit said Tuesday's seminar had been held in line with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's policy of stepping up integration and co-operation with the delta. It was attended by more than 30 government officials and think-tanks from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan. The Hong Kong government delegation included Albert Lai Kwok-ying, deputy head of the Central Policy Unit, and Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Raymond Fan Wai-ming. Participants proposed setting up a Greater Pearl River Delta planning board to centralise major infrastructure projects, and speeding up the free flow of capital, talent and information among the cities. 'We have seven airports, 10 harbour terminals and five university conglomerates in such a small area. And new ones are under construction. There is much repetition in the infrastructure development and that results in a huge waste of resources,' Yang Li-xun, a professor at the Shenzhen Academy of Social Science, told the meeting. 'If the eight Pearl River Delta cities cannot complement each other, they will cancel each other out with fierce competition,' he warned. Professor Yang said the delta would lose out in the race with Shanghai if the problem went unsolved. Fong Xiaoyun, a professor at Jinan University, said: 'In the Yangtze River Delta, they have a clear centre, which is Shanghai ... Here, we are like a dragon without a head.' Professor Yang said Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong should standardise their road systems and speed up the free flow of professionals and capital. Delegates suggested linking the rail systems in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangdong and even setting up a central bank. But Professor Yang said the central government must give Guangdong more freedom in negotiating with Hong Kong for these plans to come off. 'At present, Guangdong has no right to deal with Hong Kong directly. When we talk about [Pearl River Delta] integration, we only refer to mainland cities. It's hard for the Guangdong side to raise the issue actively because of the 'one country, two systems' principle. 'We hope the central government can give Guangdong a freer hand, the same as during the Sars outbreak, so we can directly talk to Hong Kong and Macau about regional integration. 'If the integration is successful, we will be the undisputed economic centre of China and even project our influence to Southeast Asia.'