Privatisation of Guangdong water feared

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 12:00am

Guangdong province must ensure it retains control over the price and supply of water to the SAR, a National People's Congress (NPC) member said yesterday.

Lo Suk-ching - who chairs a recently established concern group on the controversial Dongshen water project - said there was a danger that restructuring of the Guangdong Government's debt-ridden arm, Guangdong Enterprise Holdings (GDE) could mean a private firm taking control of the water.

Mr Lo said he had received assurances from Guangdong deputy provincial governor Ou Guangyuan, but he wanted it in 'black and white'.

'In future, it would of course be in both sides' interests that clear provisions are there to make sure Guangdong would be free to decide prices and quantity of water supplied to Hong Kong,' he said.

'At present, we have firm assurances that the province would resort to the same criteria in determining prices of water supplied,' said Mr Lo.

The cost of water supplied to Hong Kong from the Dongjiang, or East River, had risen from 10 HK cents a cubic metre in 1964 to $3.08 due to inflation, a weak yuan and higher operating costs.

The province would in future decide on prices by the same yardstick, despite possible pressure due to debt restructuring, Mr Ou reportedly said.

'Mr Ou has assured us the water project would remain a government asset. The future company [after restructuring] would not meddle in price and quantity talks with Hong Kong,' said Mr Lo.