Lingnan Stories

Professor Alex Wong
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics

Professor Alex Wong

Research can help people and facilitate the transformation of lives and communities.

Professor Alex Wong

Throughout his academic career, Alex Wong, Assistant Professor of Economics, has published and engaged in a number of research projects that focus on poverty and the underprivileged, not only in Hong Kong, but also in rural areas of China and Africa. "I am interested in Development Economics, Education Economics and Health Economics. These researches can help people and facilitate the transformation of lives and communities. That’s why I love teaching too, as education is the best way to inspire our younger generation."

Over the past decade, Prof Wong has travelled extensively across China and conducted research on agricultural economics, health and education issues of rural farmers and children, among other projects in Hong Kong. Last year, he was awarded a €300,000 research grant by WOTRO Science for Global Development under the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to carry out a two-year research study on the cost effectiveness of integrating a "Weather Index Agricultural Insurance" into the Productive Safety Net Program in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopia project

"In many developing countries, rural farmers are highly vulnerable to weather risk. Without access to insurance, they often adopt vigilant farming behaviours which further affect their harvest, income and livelihood," Prof Wong says. "During the two-year research study, we lead a consortium of research units including Columbia University in the United States, Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Mekelle University in Ethiopia, and non-governmental organizations and businesses including The Relief Society of Tigray and Nyala Insurance to provide policy recommendations on the use of agricultural weather insurance as an additional component in Ethiopia’s safety net programme. We were very happy to have received the prestigious grant. Among the seven awardees, Lingnan was the only university in Asia whose research proposal was funded," Prof Wong adds.

According to Prof Wong, the economic condition of rural farmers in many parts of Africa is like China’s 20 years ago or even worse. "We visited over 30 villages and 1,000 families to conduct the survey and research. Communication has perhaps been the toughest problem encountered during the project so far. But we are able to manage it and build trust with the families and the partners," Prof Wong says.

The practical scholar

When asked what the most important part is in his teaching – besides his research – Prof Wong answered without hesitation: "Being practical. In my teaching in the subject of Development Economics for instance, I mainly use research papers, instead of textbooks, to teach students about the best empirical research conducted by the best researchers in the world in different developing countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Kenya. Also, I encourage and guide them to make reflections on our daily life, about Hong Kong and our community, i.e. be practical."

Prof Wong is also a Warden of one of the 10 Lingnan hostels. "This allows me to talk to students and the younger generation on a day to day basis. It is the best way to communicate with them and understand their thoughts and concerns, which in return guides me on what kind of help I could offer them. Born and raised in Hong Kong, I am thankful for all the opportunities and help which I received throughout my life. I am obliged to contribute to the community with my teaching, research, or personal help," stresses Prof Wong, who is also a board member of Cedar Fund, a Christian organisation with aims to help the poor and disadvantaged people around the world.