RTHK funding rejection puts other over-budget projects in doubt
Legco's tougher stance could affect plans for Central-Wan Chai bypass and border crossing
The future of other expensive projects is in doubt after legislators who halted funding for RTHK's planned new headquarters said they would not readily approve projects that ran over budget.
These include the Central-Wan Chai bypass and a new border crossing in the northeastern New Territories, due to be approved by the legislature's Finance Committee this month and next.
An "unexpected" surge in construction costs which has been blamed for the budget blowouts could also force the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority to return to the Legislative Council for more funding to build its venues, although it has said it will not do so.
"Legco is not an automatic teller machine," lawmaker Abraham Razack, of the Business and Professionals Alliance said. "The government's explanation has been inadequate."
And New People's Party deputy chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun said: "We cannot approve funding automatically."
Wong Kwok-hing of the Federation of Trade Unions called for a review of the government's formula for cost estimation.
Over-budget projects include the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai border crossing, for which the estimated cost has risen by more than 50 per cent, from HK$16.25 billion in July 2012 to HK$24.8 billion by the end of last year.
The government blamed a sharp rise in construction costs, including equipment and wages. Overtime pay for workers was also cited as a factor, given the crossing must be ready by 2018.
The Central-Wan Chai bypass needs an extra HK$7.9 billion, a 28 per cent increase on the original cost estimate of HK$28.1 billion.
Wong Ting-kwong, representing the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said projects substantially over budget should be examined with extra care. "Lawmakers must be more careful as we need to be responsible to the citizens," he said.
But the Democratic Party took a more lenient stance. Party member Wu Chi-wai, who voted to approve the extra funding for the RTHK headquarters, said it would be difficult for lawmakers to refuse requests for extra funding.
"Sometimes, the delay of projects is caused by legal action but that's a way for people to voice their opposition," Wu said.
The Development Bureau stood by its formula for cost estimation yesterday, describing it as "a well-adopted practice".