Surveyors hit out at public-private plans

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 May, 2004, 12:00am

Surveyors have called on the government to freeze planned public works involving private developers.

The Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors yesterday became the first professional body to raise concerns about the so-called public-private partnership (PPP) model, saying proper procedures and a regulatory framework are needed.

Institute president Tony Tse Wai-chuen said: 'They are abusing PPP. The government should consider putting [projects] on hold until it comes out with a detailed analysis [showing that] this approach will bring real benefits to Hong Kong.'

The new partnership model will be used to redevelop the Prince of Wales Hospital and the Sha Tin Water Treatment Plant, and build the West Kowloon cultural district and leisure facilities in Kwun Tong, Tseung Kwan O and Tai Po.

The government is advocating the model as a means of funding public projects it cannot afford.

Private developers recover costs with rights to manage any projects they build for 20 to 30 years.

'PPP can bring efficiency and creativity. But the advantages of PPP can only be delivered if [the model] is used in the right way,' said Paul Ho Hok-keung, the institute's honorary secretary, who is also the associate head of City University's building science and technology division.

The surveyors warned of potential dire consequences if the government continued to view the model as a panacea for public development and the solution to the budget deficit.

These included possible corruption, the creation of a monopoly and the government having to step in with bail-out funds.

Mr Ho said the administration should compare the total cost of using PPP with the traditional government financing method to decide if it represented value for money.

'It is not just about the initial capital investment. The government should also take into account the operating costs in the future, because the projects will be managed by the private sector for 20 to 30 years,' he said.

The institute is organising a forum on May 29 to help the public better understand the partnership concept.