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The power of dialogue: 3 ways Hong Kong is Enabling Better Infrastructure

08 March 2023

Ricky Lau joined the first ICE ‘Country Talks’ webinar to discuss how EBI principles helped inform Hong Kong’s infrastructure roadmap. 

The power of dialogue: 3 ways Hong Kong is Enabling Better Infrastructure
The EBI principles are helping Hong Kong build for future generations. Image credit: HKDB

Conversations can reveal insights that have the potential to drive innovation.

This was demonstrated by the first in the ICE’s ‘Country Talks’ webinar series, which focused on Hong Kong.

The importance of dialogue underpins stage 2 of Enabling Better Infrastructure (EBI), a programme to build a worldwide network of global infrastructure leaders share international best practice and insight.

The world has changed drastically since EBI’s launch in 2019. Now more than ever, there’s a need for representatives from all over the world to share their knowledge and experiences.

Ricky Lau, Permanent Secretary for Development (Works) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, joined us recently to discuss how the EBI principles have shaped strategic infrastructure policy in Hong Kong.

Key takeaways

1. Focus on people

When asked for advice to new policymakers operating in the sustainable infrastructure space, Lau asserted: “People are at the heart of infrastructure projects.”

This links not only to his emphasis on attracting and retaining engineering talent, but also to EBI’s core principle of placing people’s needs at the forefront of decision-making.

2. Learn from others

Lau also referred to the fact that Hong Kong looks to Singapore and the UK as examples of best practice.

Though widely recognised as an exemplar of infrastructure delivery, Hong Kong still sees the value in learning from others.

This theme forms the foundation of EBI 2, which aims to use dialogue as a tool to retrieve lessons from a diverse range of countries.

3. Approach challenges honestly and constructively

Throughout the discussion, Lau was open about the challenges facing Hong Kong’s infrastructure goals, including the city’s aging workforce, high construction costs, and mismatch in supply and demand.

Despite these concerns, Lau maintained a positive outlook.

Emphasising the importance of innovation, he outlined some of the methods Hong Kong has adopted to overcome its challenges, including new programmes to promote engineering talent.

This aligns with EBI’s role as a response to global challenges such as climate change, rapid demographic changes, and the Covid-19 pandemic.

To overcome the barriers these phenomena have created, EBI maintains a flexible and responsive approach to give countries the tools to navigate uncertainty.

From theory to practice: the EBI principles

The first stage of EBI saw the creation of the 12 guiding principles, which set out a framework for prioritising and planning infrastructure.

Hong Kong’s national infrastructure plan embodies these principles.

Here are three examples from the Hong Kong Country Talk that demonstrate this:

1. Sustainable Development Goals as a baseline (principle 2)

Lau emphasised Hong Kong’s prioritisation of sustainable housing communities, initiatives to encourage walking and cycling, and carbon neutrality.

This aligns with the UN’s goals to make cities and communities resilient and sustainable, promote health and wellbeing for all, and ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

2. Consistent consultation and engagement (principle 11)

When asked about the role of stakeholders, Lau said that Hong Kong engages with them during each stage of the infrastructure planning process.

He also promoted the use of the New Engineering Contract (NEC), a collaboration with contractors and consultants.

3. Data and digital transformation (Principle 12)

Data is an integral aspect of Hong Kong’s infrastructure planning process.

Lau highlighted that the Development Bureau uses multiple data types from different assets, networks, and stakeholders to share experience and knowledge with industry stakeholders.

Watch the full recording:

Discover more about the 12 guiding principles

Learn more about the EBI programme

The EBI report and resource hub gathers global knowledge, case studies, and insight to help decision-makers deliver the infrastructure that societies need.

Find out more

  • Adina Nembhardt, EBI programme researcher at ICE