The request for additional funding of two large public works construction projects which have overrun in costs has divided lawmakers. The pro-Beijing camp has expressed their support while the pan-democrats stated that the over-expenditure was too serious and that they would be voting against it. Legislative Council Finance Committee Chairperson Chan Kin-por has suggested extra meetings be held to speed things up.
The Legislative Council Public Works Subcommittee is currently dealing with the over-expenditure of the HongKong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge (HZMB) and the High Speed Rail link (HSR) projects, and it is asking for an additional HK$5.46 billion and HK$19.6 billion respectively. The funding is expected to be handed over to the Finance Committee for review this month. The government has said that the funding for the two projects must be approved in January and March, and that there must not be any further delays.
Chan said that government officials should apologise for the budget overrun, as this would be helpful to the cause.
“The government has to let the public blow off some steam, and someone has to come out and take responsibility, and apologise. Apologising doesn’t mean stepping down – or this would encourage a culture of refusing to apologise,” Chan said.
Chan also set a timetable for reviewing the additional funding, and is proposing extra meetings to facilitate the process. Meetings on the HZMB will be held over a span of four consecutive days at the end of this month to meet the funding deadline of January, while meetings on the HSR will be held on weekends in January in time for the March deadline.
Chan is also set to put a limit on the number of questions and motions legislators can submit. This is largely viewed as an attempt to prevent councillors from filibustering during the proceedings.
Chan Kin-por. Photo: Apple Daily.
The pro-establishment camp has stated that they will support additional funding. Tam Yiu-chung of The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) said that he believes the public would not want the high-speed rail project to go to waste, and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions’ Chan Yuen-han also said that she was in support of moving the high-speed rail project forward.
New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip said that the project was “too big to fail” and that “leaving the project unfinished would be like “throwing money into the sea.” Liberal Party’s James Tien also said that “it must be done no matter what,” Apple Daily reported.
On the other hand, many of the pan-democrats, including Wu Chi-wai and Sin Chung-kai of the Democratic Party and Chan Chi-chuen of People’s Power, said that they are against the additional funding. Sin said that the MTR Corporation has not apologised or taken any additional responsibility, and that ultimately it is the taxpayers who will pay the price. League of Social Democrats lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung also said he is not in support of holding extra meetings for the purposes of approving the funding requests as soon as possible, RTHK reported.