HONG KONG'S construction output has fallen to its lowest level since 1996, according to government figures released last month, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
Results from the Census & Statistics Department show that output fell 3.6% last year to HK$119bn ($51.2bn), compared with $15.65bn in 1999 and $14.5bn in 1996.
The downward slide was only slowed by a rise in public works to $6.3bn last year, compared with $6bn in 1999. This includes spending by the two railway corporations on the West Rail and East Rail schemes and the Tseung Kwan O line, together with government works.
Patrick Chan Wing-tung, secretary general of the Hong Kong Construction Association, led the warning of possible job cuts.
'Companies are already finding it difficult keeping people busy, ' he told NCEI.
Chan added that the decline in workload would make construction more competitive, with intense cut throat bidding and the likelihood of more scandals involving poor workmanship - a reference to the raft of cases of poor quality work over the last three years.
Chris Morgan, managing director of Cannonway Consultants, added: 'These figures reflect the picture we have come to expect in the construction industry - a continuing decline in turnover. Not only is turnover down on the year, but the final quarter of 2000 was down 3% on the third quarter.'
The recent start on the KowloonCanton Railway Corporation's two East Rail extensions has brought a welcome boost, but industry observers warn of deeper problems in 2004-05 when all major rail projects will be finished.