One Belt One Road to drive inclusive growth

Sean Ellison

Senior Economist, Asia-Pacific (RICS)

Mr. Vincent Lo, Chairman of Shui On Group and the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council delivered a compelling closing address at the RICS World Built Environment Forum Annual Summit in Shanghai. Mr. Lo described the opportunities presented by One Belt One Road and how it is set to drive global growth.


The dragon has risen

Mr. Lo began by reflecting on China’s growth path. Since Deng Xiaopeng ‘opened’ the economy in 1978, he noted that the economy has grown over 50 times. He has experienced this first hand through Shui On’s projects in China, and these investments have grown alongside the country.

In many ways, the countries along the Belt and Road Initiative present similar opportunities to what China did forty years ago. Although countries along One Belt One Road comprise 61% of the world’s population, they only account for 29% of global GDP. As the latter figure increases to align with the former, this will spawn new present opportunities like those in China in past decades.

More than China

Mr. Lo noted that China has thus far been championing the initiative, having secured nearly 50 government-to-government co-operation agreements along the Belt and Road including industrial zones, utilities, roads, and railways among others.

However, China cannot achieve this on its own. China has already invested more than 50 billion US dollars in Belt and Road countries thus far – already 10 billion US dollars more than the 40 billion US dollars allocated for such investments in the Silk Road Fund. Mr. Lo noted “it is a huge undertaking with no fixed scope or borders, so it’s up to all of us to define it and take action,” while what is needed is “a collaborative spirit and open minds.”

This requires an alternative to public only finance that traditionally funds these projects. Namely, private participation is essential, which will require new financing models to meet the needs of all participants.

Sustainability is key

Surveyors need to adapt to meet local needs. Mr. Lo highlighted sustainability as a pillar to the success of the initiative, saying that it “needs to be incorporate from the very beginning stage, and implemented from the top.”

This goes beyond ensuring local standards are met, projects “need to address a host of social, environmental and cultural preservation concerns.” Moreover, these projects need to nurture and develop local talent, to ensure both that the economic gains associated with these projects are spread among the local communities and that efficiency gains in these projects are passed on to the future.

A Call to action

Mr. Lo closed with a poignant call to action for the profession. He drew on his personal experience in Hong Kong, where he noted that inequality has hit extremes and young people today in Hong Kong may never be able to afford a house, while others crowd into ‘micro-apartments’ barely 160 square feet.

This is not a phenomenon unique to Hong Kong. Across the globe we have seen political discourse grow and become more volatile in regions that lack volatility. Given the space in which our profession works, Mr. Lo said that it is as much a responsibility for professionals use their influence to restore this basic human dignity and foster inclusive growth.

About the World Built Environment Forum (WBEF)

The World Built Environment Forum demonstrates responsible leadership for the built environment and hosts summits which take place around the world.

This forum creates and sets the standard for dialogue and collaboration among professionals, clients, policy makers and regulators with the aim of driving up standards so that our profession and our industry show responsible leadership in enabling sustainable growth.

Find out more about the WBEF, access videos from the event and get details of upcoming events.

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