HONG KONG'S construction output has fallen to its lowest level since 1996, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Results from the Census and Statistics Department show that output fell 3.6% last year to £10.6bn, compared with £10.9bn in 1999 and £10.1bn in 1996.
A deeper slide was averted by a surge in public works to £4.4bn, compared with £4.2bn in 1999. This includes spending by the two railway corporations on the West Rail and East Rail schemes and the Tseung Kwan O line.
'Companies are already finding it difficult keeping people busy, 'warned Patrick Chan Wing-tung, secretary general of the Hong Kong Construction Association.
He predicted the continuing decline in workload would lead to cut-throat bidding and the increasingly likelihood of more scandals involving poor workmanship.
Chris Morgan, managing director of Cannonway Consultants, said: 'These figures reflect the picture we've almost come to expect in the construction industry a continuing decline in turnover.
'Not only is turnover down on the year, but turnover in the final quarter was down 3% on the third quarter of 2000.'