Legco and Hospital Authority funding to be suspended due to filibuster

Financial secretary says administration is facing problems paying its expenses beyond May in light of budget filibuster

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 8:14am

The government would suspend funding for the Legislative Council Commission, the Hospital Authority and the University Grants Committee next month because of the ongoing filibuster of the budget bill, the financial secretary said yesterday.

Speaking after talks with top civil servants, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the administration was facing difficulty in paying its expenses beyond this month. The government's HK$78.7 billion provisional funding runs out on May 31, but Tsang ruled out applying for emergency funding.

The funding for the three public bodies "will be suspended in June to pull together HK$5.1 billion funding for other operations", Tsang said. But he said the HK$5.1 billion would only sustain the administration's expenses for a week.

While the Legco commission, which provides administrative support for the legislature, will have its funding suspended, Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing said the body would use its HK$120 million reserve to pay for the operation and staff wages of the secretariat, which amount to about HK$40 million per month.

He said the Legco commission would have to make a ''political decision'' as to whether the remaining reserve should be used to pay the wages and expenses of lawmakers, which amount to HK$18 million a month.

While the financial secretary painted a bleak picture of the government's balance sheet, he said he was doing so for good reason. "Over 60 departments will see their reserves drying up in June," said Tsang, who based his assessment on cash-flow forecasts collected from all government departments. "The ideal time for passing the appropriation bill is mid-May but that has already passed."

Two filibustering lawmakers - Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, of the People Power party - told Jasper Tsang on Wednesday that their marathon protest could finish by the end of this month. They have asked the government to apply for emergency funding.

John Tsang refuses to meet the filibustering lawmakers, whose demands include calling on the government to set up a universal pension fund.

"A meeting with them would not help much" to end the filibuster, he said. "We understand their stance."

Chan said that if the government was unable to fund itself it would be because of its own incompetence.

Legco has yet to vote on any of the 1,192 amendments to the budget bill - mainly sponsored by four radical pan-democrats - after 43 hours of debate since April 30, including 10 hours spent counting quorums.