Chinese team calls for deal on budget
THE leader of the Chinese budget team, Chen Zuo'er, yesterday pressed the British side to come to an agreement within the next two months on how the 1997-98 budget should be prepared.
After the first day of the sixth round of budget talks, Mr Chen said the Chinese side had tabled its proposal to the British side for consideration and hoped for a positive response.
Although Mr Chen declined to give details of the Chinese proposal, he said a consensus was needed before preparatory work for the budget began in April.
He reiterated that the Chinese Government had to take a more active role in the 1997-98 budget on behalf of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government because the chief executive-designate and his team had not yet been chosen.
'Under these circumstances, the Chinese Government has to shoulder its responsibility to represent the SAR government's interests to participate in the preparation of a transitional budget.
'The degree of participation will be different from that of the present discussion on the budget for the financial year of 1996-97.' He said the compilation and implementation of the 1997-98 budget was 'very special' because 75 per cent of the budget would be implemented by the SAR government.
'We all know that the budget for the financial year of 1997-98 is facing a historical change, that is, to straddle 1997.
'After 1997, the preparation and implementation of the budget will completely be a matter of the Hong Kong SAR government. The Chinese Government will not participate,' he said.
He described the atmosphere of yesterday's meeting as good and hoped the British side would give an active response as soon as possible. The British team, led by Secretary for the Treasury Kwong Ki-chi, remained tight-lipped.
The present round of budget talks will continue this afternoon and finish tomorrow.
Mr Kwong could not be reached for comment last night.
A spokesman for the Finance Branch said: 'The transitional budget has to be discussed by the Joint Liaison Group [JLG] to ensure a thorough budget, instead of a piecemeal one.
'We are prepared to consult the Chinese side on the 1997-98 budget, and we will carefully consider the proposal from China.' Meanwhile, experts from the JLG met yesterday to discuss the application of international agreements in Hong Kong.
At a news briefing, the Chinese and British sides described the meeting as 'helpful and constructive'.
Chinese representative Wang Weiyang noted that the transition of international treaties was important to the handover of political power, and the territory's smooth transition, prosperity and stability.