City finance chief defends Asian Games budget
Mimi Lau in Guangzhou
The Guangzhou government is locked in a debate over spending for the extravagant Asian Games after its treasurer rebutted an earlier claim that the city was in debt to the tune of 210 billion yuan (HK$248.5 billion).
In the latest attempt at a fightback, Guangzhou Financial Bureau director Zhang Jieming called in local reporters and handed out a briefing with the headline 'Guangzhou is not 210 billion yuan in debt for organising the Asian Games' just to get his point across, The Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday. The briefing contained a detailed breakdown of expenditure for the major Asian Games projects and related infrastructure.
Zhang told the paper that the Asian Games' operating budget stood at only 13.6 billion yuan. From 2005 to 2010, the city pumped in another 109 billion yuan to boost its infrastructure, he said.
'As of now, we have paid 9.1 billion yuan out of the total operating budget for the Asian Games. The actual spending is basically within budget,' Zhang said.
Details of the Games' accounts would not be made public until 2013 or even later 'because there was a lot of follow-up work to do', Zhang said.
The newspaper also reported yesterday that Asian Games venues had cost 6.3 billion yuan, and 73.2 billion was spent on transport infrastructure, including building 177 kilometres of new subway lines, roads and express bus lanes. Another 19 billion yuan was spent on improving the city's environment and decorating areas around the venues, and 16.8 billion yuan was spent on fixing the city's water treatment system.
Zhang said Guangzhou's total debt was 88.4 billion yuan, including 40 billion yuan incurred before the city had applied to host the Asian Games.
'Guangzhou's Asian Games is not 210 billion yuan in debt ... Currently, the scale of our total debts is being kept within an affordable level,' he said.
His comment came after severe acute respiratory syndrome expert Dr Zhong Nanshan said during the annual meeting of the city's legislature last Wednesday that the city was heavily in debt after the Asian Games and would be short of cash to invest in public services.
Zhong, a widely respected flu expert and a deputy to the National People's Congress, said his research had shown that the total investment for the Asian Games was 257 billion yuan and that Guangzhou had landed 210 billion yuan in debt.
The comments by Zhong, who blew the whistle after Beijing played down the extent of the Sars outbreak in 2003, fuelled debate on the Games' budget, the details of which the city government has never released.
The Guangzhou government said last Friday that Zhong 'must have cited the wrong sources'.
In October, Guangzhou Mayor Wan Qingliang told reporters the city government had budgeted 122.6 billion yuan for the Asian Games and infrastructure projects.