ZHUHAI Mayor Liang Guangda remembers all too well how he used to be shunned by government bankers in the city during the early stages of development of the special economic zone. ''They knew that whenever the mayor called on them, they would be asked to provide money for the city's development. So they always stayed away from me,'' said Mr Liang. But for Mr Liang and his counterparts in the Pearl River delta cities, the shortage of funds did not stop them pressing ahead with their goal of making Guangdong the fifth Asian dragon. Many of the Pearl River delta cities report that Beijing's macro-economic controls put great strains on their ambitious infrastructure construction, seen as the key to the next economic leap. Zhuhai has no alternative but to invest heavily in infrastructure. Due partly to the lack of railway links as well as port, highway and power facilities, the city has lagged behind Shenzhen, its neighbouring special economic zone. ''Many multinationals visited Zhuhai and found the infrastructure was not up to their requirements. Poor infrastructure facilities are an obstacle in attracting foreign investment,'' Mr Liang said. Zhuhai plans to invest 235 billion yuan (about HK$315 billion at the official rate) in fixed assets over the next 15 years. Part of that huge investment will go to 30 major projects, including the Zhuhai port, Zhuhai airport, the Guangzhou-Zhuhai railway, a major power station and a large water supply system. Mr Liang has another grand idea - linking the special economic zone with Hong Kong with a 53-kilometre bridge, part of his programme to ''shorten'' the distance between the two economies. So where will the money come from? The answer is to pick the right projects, ones that fall within the Chinese Government's investment policy. This will make financing them easier. The projects must be profitable too. Zhuhai officials use a slogan in appealing to international investors: ''Lend us a cup of water today and you will be repaid a bucket of oil tomorrow''. Mr Liang has found inspiration in Hong Kong's land policy. He said: ''Zhuhai has been keeping a tight control over land. We have spent eight billion yuan to acquire farmland from farmers. ''Then we put in some money to turn the low-quality land into high-quality land, thereby receiving higher revenue from land sales to support our projects.'' Shenzhen's Vice-Mayor Zhang Hongyi said problems for its economy were a shortage of funds and high inflation, which stood at 20 per cent in the first 10 months of the year. But Shenzhen authorities, saying the massive investment in the past decade still could not meet the demand of rapid economic growth, have decided to build a light-rail system and an underground railway. The Yantian port, in which a Hutchison Whampoa-led consortium has taken a 70 per cent stake, is being built at full speed. Under the development plan, the first phase of Yantian will consist of two 50,000-tonne container berths, which should come into service early next year. In Guangzhou, Guangdong's capital, the municipal government has set itself a target of catching up to the four Asian dragons in 15 years, by which time gross domestic product will have reached 200 billion yuan, based on 13 per cent growth a year. Key infrastructure projects under way or planned include the Pearl River power plant, an express ring road, an underground railway system and renovation of the existing port. Elsewhere in the Pearl River delta, which covers 44,500 square kilometres and has a population of 19.58 million, local officials are looking to the future, rather than being content with their achievements over the past decade. In Huizhou, Mayor Li Jinwei said a deep-water port had essentially been completed and was linked by railway with Guangzhou, and the existing airport was being expanded to enable it to take all aircraft except Boeing 747s. A car manufacturing base is also taking shape. US-registered Panda Motors Corp is still committed to building a giant manufacturing plant, although it is now asking for the right to sell cars in the domestic market. The Second Automobile Works is expanding the production capacity of its Huizhou subsidiary. In Dongguan, host to more than 8,000 joint ventures and processing plants, senior official Ouyang De said the city would introduce high energy consumption industries such as steel making and steel and aluminium rolling. These plants will operate during the night when electricity consumption is low in order to maintain an even pattern of power consumption. Dongguan is also building a new town, as large as the existing town, and 400 million yuan is required to build the infrastructure. The city is planning to construct the largest coal power station in Guangdong. Mr Ouyang brushed aside any suggestion of economic overheating. ''Macro control has no impact on Dongguan. Our economy doesn't need adjustment and we have the ability to go for faster growth.'' Foshan Mayor Zhong Guangchao said his city was seeking approval to expand an existing airport into a medium-size domestic facility which would initially have 12 domestic lines as a complement to Guangzhou's Baiyun airport. Mr Zhong said that during 1993-95, Foshan would invest 20 billion yuan in infrastructure, most of which would come from sources other than the government. Mr Zhong admitted that after the macro control measures were implemented, 60 per cent of loans from other provinces were recalled. The shortage of funds has posed difficulties in creating the high-technology development zone. He said foreign investment would be sought to finance infrastructure projects. Hopewell Holdings would be involved in the building of a highway. Foreign investment of about US$250 million was necessary for the Guangzhou-Foshan light railway, he said. ''Even when we were short of funds earlier this year, we still carried on doing what we thought was necessary,'' he said. In Panyu, 54 sq km of Nansha is being developed into an Economic and Technological Development Zone three times the size of Macau. It comprises four parts - an international harbour, a bonded area, an administrative, economic and cultural district, and a heavy industrial district. Shunde Vice-Mayor Liu Shiyi said his city would build a seven sq km new town as its future central district. New World Development and Henderson Land have been invited to take part in the project. The economic performance of the Pearl River delta from 1980 to 1992 has been outstanding, with gross national product increasing by an annual average of 25 per cent, from 26.1 billion yuan to 380.1 billion yuan. The area accounted for two-third of the province's total GDP and total retail commodity sales. It had 80 per cent of the exports and 70 per cent of fiscal revenue. Under the Guangdong Government's blueprint for modernisation, Guangzhou will be the focus, acting as an international information, financial and commercial centre and the province's hi-tech base. The special economic zones will establish their own hi-tech industries and tertiary industry. Other Pearl River delta cities will work together to build a hi-tech industrial belt with their local industries concentrating on technology-oriented processing. The Government estimates that by 2000, Guangdong will have GDP of 500 billion yuan, which will require average growth of 13.4 per cent a year. By 2010, it will have a GDP of 1.6 trillion yuan, representing an average annual increase of 12.4 per cent. ''If Guangdong's economic growth maintained an average of 10 per cent per annum for 20 years, its economy would be larger than that of France and Germany,'' said Kenichi Ohmae, chairman of McKinsey's Japan office.