Surveyors argue for a new legal framework

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 May, 2005, 12:00am

A new law and a new system is needed by the government to help it make better decisions on whether the private sector should be involved in a public works or services project, says the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors.

The institute is a strong advocate of the use of the public-private partnership (PPP) system.

Its president, Cheung Tat-tong, said officials should compare every government project with a set of indicators, such as cost and efficiency, before using the PPP model.

This would indicate whether the community would be better off by leaving a project to the private sector, he said.

The institute, which recently completed a study on the use of PPP in Hong Kong, said this would be a more scientific means of deciding whether the method was suitable for a project.

'Otherwise, the government owes the public an explanation [as to] why a certain project needs to go PPP,' he said, citing the controversial West Kowloon Cultural District project, in which the government did not compile a private sector comparison.

Mr Cheung said an inability to compile a comparison may suggest the project was too risky to go private.

He said a new law should give the public more confidence in PPP projects. In Ireland, two pieces of legislation were designed to govern officials on how to deal with such schemes.

'Hong Kong is a city about the rule of law. A new law should be drafted if that can be done. This would have far-reaching implications,' he said. 'The government said most PPP projects would involve public money, thus Legco approval. But officials could design projects involving no public expenditure and skip Legco. All we need is statutory control.'