Hong Kong - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Hong Kong has a superb infrastructure, which meets its population's needs and contributes to the efficiency and growth of the economy. Hong Kong has an advanced land, sea, and air transport and communications system, including 1,831 kilometers (1,138 miles) of paved roads (1997 est.) and 34 kilometers (21 miles) of electrified railways (1996 est.). The railway system is one of the most efficient systems of the world and is connected to Chinese railways via the Kowloon peninsula. The construction of 3 new lines was begun in 1998. In 2000, the Hong Kong government hinted at a huge project to construct 6 more lines to facilitate (make easier) rail traffic between Hong Kong Island and the rest of the territory and also to improve freight links with mainland China to meet the expected future needs.

Hong Kong's land transportation services are very efficient. To decrease the level of air pollution, its government encourages the use of public transportation

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Hong Kong 792 684 431 61.8 475 54.3 254.2 142.77 2,430
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
South Korea 393 1,033 346 138.3 302 N/A 156.8 55.53 10,860
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

services and discourages the use of private cars in its small territory. It therefore keeps improving public transportation services while increasing the cost of maintaining private cars through various measures such as high car-registration fees, a compulsory inspection for cars over 6 years old, and a point system to disqualify offending drivers. Public transport facilities include the mainly underground Mass Transit Railway, which provided services to 2.2 million passengers every working day in 1999. It also includes very efficient bus services run by 4 private companies, supplemented by public and private light minibus services. A line of streetcars, about 18,000 taxis, 113,770 cargo vehicles, and 321,617 private cars further facilitated passenger movements in 1999.

Sea communications are vital for Hong Kong, both for trade and daily life. There are at least 5 major ferry companies providing daily service between the islands where its population lives and works. Hong Kong is a major port in Asia and one of the busiest container ports in the world. It handled 6.2 million twenty-foot containers in 1999. To meet future increases in cargo handling, an expansion of its container terminal facilities began in the same year.

Hong Kong's eminent status as a major international port could be undermined in 2 ways. First, Taiwan and Singapore rival Hong Kong by improving their port facilities regularly. Second, a major portion of Hong Kong's cargo handling is shipping of re-exports to and from China, which will decrease as China develops its mainland ports. Besides its good port facilities, Hong Kong has a very advanced commercial fleet, which operated 38,000 vessel departures in 1999. In the same year the capacity of its cargo fleet was 215,226 metric tons.

Hong Kong has high-quality private airlines and was home to 3 modern airports with paved runways and 2 heliports as of 1999. A new Hong Kong international airport, Chek Lap Kok Airport, replaced the old international airport (Kai Kak airport) in 1998. Kai Kak Airport handled 30 million passengers and 1.6 million tons of cargo in 1997. Located on Lantau Island, the new airport is one of the world's best airports, and is capable of handling up to 460 flights a day. Its annual passenger and cargo capability is 87 million passengers and 9 million metric tons of cargo, respectively.

Hong Kong's utility services are excellent even though they are highly dependent on imports for their daily operations. The territory has no source of fresh water, which makes it dependent on China for all its water needs to run its efficient water system.

Hong Kong has the highest rate of energy consumption per capita in Asia. For example, in 1998 its electricity consumption per capita was 5,569 kilowatt hours (kWh) compared to mainland China's 922 kWh. Hong Kong imports all its needs in fuel for private and commercial consumption, and power generation amounted to 18 million metric tons of oil in 1998. Hong Kong also imports gas from China and liquified gas through oil companies such as Shell, Mobil, Esso, Caltex, and China Resources, while producing gas from naphtha (a mixture of liquid hydrocarbons made from distilling petroleum, coal tar, and natural gas) at home. The value of its energy imports increased from about US$3 billion in 1998 to US$3.5 billion in 1999.

Two private companies supply electricity to Hong Kong and each has a monopolized area. In addition to the generated electricity in its 3 fossil-fuel power stations, Hong Kong imports electricity from China, including from the Daya Bay atomic power station, a Chinese government-Hong Kong joint venture . The power generation capacity of the 2 private companies (9,590 megawatts [mw] in 1998) is well above the demand (8,620 mw in 1998). This guarantees a continuous supply of uninterrupted power.

The telecommunications system of Hong Kong is excellent, consisting of fixed-line and cellular services. In 1998, there were 3.7 million fixed-line telephones and 2.4 million cellular phones in use. Hong Kong has one of the highest rates of usage of cellular phones in the world. In 2000, for instance, 55.6 percent of its population (3.9 million people) owned cellular telephones, an increase of 1.5 million from 1998. Personal computers are widely used and their availability is high (254 computers per 1,000 people in the same year). Internet services were provided by 49 Internet service providers in 1999.

Cable & Wireless HKT, a private company, dominates the telecommunications market. It had a 100 percent monopoly until 1997, when the Hong Kong government began to end its monopoly by encouraging competition. Through licensing of 3 new companies, the government reduced the market share of Cable & Wireless HKT to 97 percent in 2000. In that year it announced the licensing of 5 more companies.

Radio and television services are also advanced. In addition to foreign cable and satellite TV programs, 20 AM and FM radio stations and 4 television networks were operating in 1997. The number of televisions and radios in use in that year were estimated to be 1.84 million and 4.45 million, respectively.

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