Major studies have been undertaken with the aim of setting out a long-term strategy for land use and infrastructure development in Hong Kong as well as to enhance synergy with the Pearl River Delta. These initiatives will serve as a blueprint for building on the fine record of accomplishment in the extensive Public Works Programme. With an excellent track record of having constructed nine new towns that now house about 45 per cent of the population, the Government has plans to undertake new projects and to implement an urban renewal programme in older areas. Emphasis is placed on sustainable development, and people's well-being.

TO meet the needs of the community and sustain Hong Kong's position as a world city in Asia, the Government is committed to maintaining a robust investment in building new infrastructure and improving existing facilities. It will spend about $28 billion on capital works in 200203. In the next few years, the Government will maintain an average annual capital works expenditure of about $29 billion. To facilitate Hong Kong's ceaseless growth, the Government will continue to coordinate cross-boundary infrastructure development with the Mainland authorities.

    Government works projects are implemented by the Works Departments under the Public Works Programme (PWP). During the project planning stage, the construction costs, social costs and other intangible costs as well as possible revenues to be generated are taken into account in deciding the best option for implementation. During the construction stage, the progress and expenditure levels of each project are monitored closely through regular review reports and meetings to ensure that the projects are delivered on schedule, within budget and in a cost-effective manner.

    In order to help boost the economy through creating job opportunities, the expenditure on minor works to improve various public facilities has been increased and the implementation of PWP projects is fast-tracked. The lead-time from inception to commencement of construction of a capital works project has been substantially shortened by simplifying the administrative requirements, compressing the duration of stages and procedures and taking parallel actions between critical activities as far as practicable. As a result, the overall pre-construction period of a typical engineering project can be reduced from six years to less than four years.

    To sustain continuous improvement in site safety and to promote a safety culture across the construction industry, two safety initiatives were implemented in 2002 to encourage the industry to achieve a safer and healthier workplace. Through the procurement and contractual arrangement, contractors are required to carry out daily cleaning and weekly tidying of the construction sites, and to implement a 'Site Safety Cycle' to increase the safety awareness of workers. With the concerted efforts of all, the accident rate for public works continued to decline in 2002 to 24 accidents per thousand workers per year, representing a decrease of 30 per cent compared with 2001. The overall accident rate of the construction industry recorded a similar decrease in 2002.

    In order to enhance the quality of public works, the Government has introduced a new tender evaluation system for works contracts. Other than tender prices, the new system also places emphasis on the quality of service and takes into account the tenderers' technical proposals for the works as well as the tenderers' past performance.

    The establishment of the Provisional Construction Industry Coordination Board (PCICB) has provided an avenue for the Government to strengthen its close collaboration with the construction industry in pursuance of the recommendations made by the Construction Industry Review Committee. The board launched a website in March to enable the public to have access to its discussion papers, summaries of decisions, ongoing tasks and key deliverables.

    To achieve better control and supervision of subcontracting, the Government has obtained support in principle from the construction industry to include a subcontractor management plan as a new tender requirement for public works contracts. As a complementary measure, the PCICB has drawn up for consultation with the industry stakeholders a set of draft guidelines on subcontracting practice and a broad operational framework for the voluntary subcontractors registration scheme.

    On employees' compensation insurance, the board has initiated a dialogue with the insurance industry to provide suitable insurance coverage for self-employed construction workers and to work out a premium rebate scheme to encourage better safety performance on construction sites.

    Regarding the formation of a statutory industry coordinating body, the board has drawn up a preliminary framework for the industry-wide organisation tasked to spearhead reforms and to forge consensus on long-term strategic issues.

    As part of the Government's comprehensive Slope Safety Strategy, a 10-year Landslip Preventive Measures (LPM) Programme, with a budget of about $9 billion, was launched in April 2000 to systematically upgrade substandard government slopes and carry out safety screening of private slopes. In addition, about $800 million will be spent in 200203 to maintain government slopes. For private slopes, a revised loan scheme on building safety improvement was set up in July 2001 to provide assistance to owners who need financial assistance to maintain their slopes. To further enhance visual harmony with the surroundings, landscaping will be included in upgraded or newly formed government slopes.