Debates on spending 'show poor planning'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong is seeing more controversy over spending plans because the government is doing a poor job of debating the issues in advance, according to the head of the Legislative Council's finance committee.

Chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said the government should provide detailed documents at an early stage to give lawmakers a chance to react.

'The increasing number of debates over government policies has nothing to do with the looming elections - it is the lack of preparation and consultation work that matter,' said Lau, a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Party. 'The government should learn a lesson instead of finding excuses.'

Referring to the budget speech in February - after which the government insisted there was no option but to inject HK$6,000 into each Mandatory Provident Fund account - Lau said the government was stubborn about taking advice or listening to critics. 'Before the budget was released, committee members had told the officials a HK$6,000 injection into MPF accounts would not work. But the government insisted,' said Lau. 'What can you do when you have such a stupid administration?'

A week after the budget speech, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah did a U-turn, scrapped the MPF idea and instead announced that a HK$6,000 payment would be given to every permanent resident aged over 18.

Of the 65 budget plans submitted by the government over the past year, all but one was approved - a proposal to host the 2023 Asian Games.

The plan defeated in January - the only one in the past seven years - was lambasted for its wishy-washy cost projections. Citizens were spooked by an initial cost estimate of HK$44.5 billion, including direct costs of about HK$13.7 billion to HK$14.5 billion, then people were confused when the government slashed it by half to HK$6 billion.