Low rate of approvals for public spending

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, 12:00am

The legislature's Finance Committee has approved 43 public spending proposals this session, the lowest number since 2000.

Wrapping up the committee's work for the year, chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said yesterday that the government had to explain why it tabled fewer funding applications, as lawmakers across the political spectrum had agreed on the need to speed up community projects left behind by the two former municipal councils.

'I want to know why the number is so small. It's good if they are really prudent ... There are things we want them to do, but they refused,' the Frontier legislator told the meeting. 'We are pushing the administration to do more, at least to speed up the work. But there are tremendous difficulties and we are not getting too much progress.'

Committee vice-chairman Chan Kam-lam, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, did not think the number of funding applications was significantly lower than the previous year.

Figures from the Legislative Council Secretariat showed the government tabled 43 funding requests of about $24.5 billion, with the controversial Tamar development project accounting for the largest amount, at $5.16 billion.

The administration submitted 50 funding applications last year and 74 during the 2000-01 legislative year.

Lawmakers had earlier voiced concern that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had withheld some controversial bills for fear that difficulty getting them passed could affect his re-election bid.

In its programme to the legislature last October, the government planned to introduce 24 bills. Less than half this number were introduced.

But the administration honoured the arrangement to submit relevant documents to legislators five days before the 21 committee meetings held during the legislative year.

Last year, the government failed to comply with the arrangement twice in submitting 50 papers.