THE Financial Secretary, Sir Hamish Macleod, yesterday tried to justify the Government's imminent request for a whopping $23 billion for the airport railway, saying the money would be needed within three months.
'The $23 billion is all needed within the space of about two or three months. I don't have the precise area but it is quite a short period. The contracts already outstanding will use up the great majority of that money,' he said.
The Secretary for the Treasury, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, said last Friday that the administration would brief the Legislative Council's lands and works panel on the funding request this week.
The Liberal Party and the Democratic Party, which command 31 votes, say they are yet to be persuaded to approve the largest funding request ever made.
Sir Hamish said the Mass Transit Railway Corporation - which will build the airport railway - and the Provisional Airport Authority were very 'transparent'.
They published annual accounts and the Government briefed councillors on the progress of the airport core programme on a quarterly basis.
'So there is nothing hidden there. It is entirely transparent and if they [legislators] want to know more, then we will tell them more.' He said the Government had no contingency plan in the event of the request being denied.
'I think once we have been able to explain to them how quickly the money is needed for the airport railway, and how many contracts are just waiting to be signed once the money is approved, I think that they will agree,' he said.
Sir Hamish said: 'We haven't decided exactly which [Legco] Finance Committee meeting, but certainly it should be later this month.' A government spokesman said the funding request would not be on the agenda of this Friday's Finance Committee meeting.