Urban Renewal Authority (URA) Managing Director Ir Wai Chi Sing is an expert in civil and structural engineering. He holds a master’s degree in transportation engineering from Purdue University in the United States, with professional qualifications in civil, structural and geotechnical engineering.
Wai joined the Hong Kong Government in August 1980 and has served in the Transport Department, the Highways Department, and the former Environment, Transport and Works Bureau. He was the Director of Highways from November 2006 to June 2010 and Permanent Secretary for Development (Works) from June 2010 to April 2015 before retiring.
On 15 June 2016, Wai was appointed to his current position at the URA and, by virtue of holding that office, he is also the deputy chairman of the URA Board. He also serves as a director of the Board of the Urban Renewal Fund since July 2016.
What led you to pursue this career path?
When I was young, the most popular subjects at that time in Hong Kong were medicine and civil engineering. I decided to choose one of the popular subjects. I studied physics and mathematics, so I chose civil engineering. Of course, civil engineering is not a very popular subject nowadays, but that was not the case 40 years ago when I was making my decision.
Why did you decide to move into urban redevelopment upon retirement?
I have spent 40 years in the government, during which I have worked in many different departments; I am one of the very few engineers who have spent a long period working in policy bureaux, so I have the privilege of touching on quite a number of infrastructure-related and planning-related issues.
Although I am over 60 years old, I still believe that I can contribute to society. After my retirement, I was offered several job opportunities. But then, the former managing director of URA resigned. Considering my experience and the problem of urban decay in Hong Kong, I believed that I could contribute something, so I took up this post in URA. It wasn’t planned.
How have your prior roles and experiences helped you in your work at the URA?
The experiences that really assisted me were those from my position with the Development Bureau. I was responsible for the East Kowloon Development, which was designated by the government to be the second Central Business District. To bring this initiative forward, I had to deal with a lot of planning issues.
I think that urban renewal efforts in Hong Kong up to this moment focus more on project initiatives instead of the overall planning, so my previous experience will assist me in dealing with urban decay in a better way.
My other experiences, which are all related to infrastructure, are also helpful as, other than buildings, we also need to deal with the hardware of the old district, such as the infrastructure or road network, etc.
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