For some inland areas, the vaunted Pan Pearl River Delta zone hasn't panned out It was heralded as a way of sharing prosperity in the region, but one year after the Pan Pearl River Delta economic zone was established, some inland provinces are still waiting to see the benefits. The grouping of Hong Kong and Macau with Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan and Hainan - the so-called 9+2 - was launched with much fanfare. But it appeared to have lost steam until the past month, when it stirred to life with a flurry of activities that will lead to the second regional forum in Chengdu this week. An academic at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, Ding Li, lauded the forums set up at various levels to formalise exchanges but said momentum had not been sustained. 'It is still at an exploratory stage ... Time is needed for it to move from conceptualisation to substantialisation,' Professor Ding said. Inland provinces had hoped to receive industries migrating from the Greater Pearl River Delta or investment from Hong Kong - but they are still waiting. Guangdong party secretary Zhang Dejiang, who initiated the concept to further his own political goals, led a mission to Guizhou, Yunnan and Hainan last month and signed a deal with Guizhou that assured Guangdong of its labour supply. There was a return mission from the impoverished province last week to promote tourism and a barrier-free tourism accord was signed with Guangdong. Guangdong has been the biggest beneficiary, receiving power from Guizhou and Yunnan to keep its factories running, while Guizhou's own growth was clipped because some of its core industries were starved of power. The vice-director of the Guizhou Academy of Social Sciences, Xie Yi, said some people believed the province should keep power for its own energy-intensive industries. 'But others feel we should keep our promise to deliver energy to Guangdong, that it is possible that we don't get any benefits now but we will in the long term,' he said. Hong Kong was initially seen as a lukewarm partner because it signed a paltry 19 per cent of all trade and investment contracts at the zone's first trade and investment fair in Guangzhou last July, compared with Guangdong's 55 per cent. But it has started to get enthusiastic. 'There are more reports in the Hong Kong media about the PPRD and more speeches made by government officials,' said Zheng Tianxiang, a Sun Yat-sen University Pearl River Delta expert. The Constitutional Affairs Bureau, which co-ordinates the economic zone's activities in Hong Kong, says city officials have visited eight of the nine provinces and invited representatives of the nine provinces on return visits. The zone already has strong support from the central government, which analysts said was considering creating regional groupings in key areas of the country to counterbalance Shanghai's dominance. The latest news that the zone is likely to be included in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) so that it can form part of a national growth strategy has strengthened its status. But experts say what is really needed in the region is for a 'dragon head' to set direction. But neither Guangdong nor Hong Kong had expressed any interest in shouldering such a responsibility, Professor Ding said. 'If Hong Kong and Guangdong can get together to be the dragon head, 9+2 will have a core,' he said. This is easier said than done, with so many self-interests working against regional co-operation. For example, one academic said: 'Hong Kong container trucks have to pay fees to enter the mainland while Guangdong trucks are not allowed to enter Hong Kong because they are polluting and noisy and would break the rice bowl of their counterparts in Hong Kong. 'The PPRD is still too far in the distance ... we can't even resolve the problems in the Greater PRD,' he said. 'We are waiting to see what comes out of the Chengdu forum to move it forward.'