Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has hit back after a staunch supporter of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying accused him of being a "big sinner".
Tsang spoke a day after Hang Lung Group chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung criticised him for sitting on huge fiscal reserves instead of spending money properly for Hong Kong's betterment.
"[This is] too much," Tsang said yesterday, when asked to comment on the tycoon's words.
"We of course welcome Hong Kong people to monitor our work and make criticism, but I hope [they] can say something more concrete. We are willing to explore concrete suggestions."
At a Tuesday forum, Chan said Tsang was unwilling to spend money on society.
"History will prove that this is a big problem, or, to put it frankly, he is a big sinner," Chan said.
Tsang refuted the claim. "It is my responsibility to manage the treasury prudently, to spend what should be spent."
Government expenditure had risen 80 per cent since he took the helm six years ago, clocking up a double-digit growth on average every year, he said.
This year's budget injected HK$33 billion into the Community Care Fund, which helps people in need, and gave a one-off tax cut. Pan-democrats launched a petition urging him to start using the HK$1.38 trillion in reserves on tackling social problems.
Leung said he was on good terms with Tsang, when asked whether Chan's comment reflected their relationship. "It is our philosophy to spend what should be spent. I share the same vision with the financial secretary. The government budget is to support government work … according to my election manifesto and policy address."
In the past, Leung and Tsang had differed in their views on certain issues. For example, while Leung said "appropriate proactive governance" and intervention in the market was necessary to develop the economy, Tsang blogged that the government should avoid over-intervention.
In January, Leung formed the Financial Services Development Council to promote the city's financial services around the world - a move seen as diluting Tsang's power.
In March, Tsang again disagreed in his blog with the views of members of the Economic Development Commission, which Leung chaired, that Hong Kong should redevelop its manufacturing industry. He said the city should develop industries that would create high-value goods.