UN Secretary-General Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali has launched an initiative to try to silence critics of the organisation's most prominent Achilles heel - how it spends its cash. Dr Boutros-Ghali has proposed a US$109 million (about HK$842.5 million) cut in the UN's operating budget, by way of staff cuts, gains in efficiency, and abolition of non-essential programmes. It is the first time in the UN's 50-year history that a secretary-general has set about trimming the bureaucracy with any serious intent. But will it be enough to restore credibility, especially on Capitol Hill? The UN Secretariat, based largely in New York and Geneva, employs more than 14,000 people, but when one adds up every UN-affiliated programme around the world, about 51,000 are on its books, eating up around US$10.5 billion, according to estimates. But critics feel that cutting costs is not enough: the very nature of the organisation has to be redfined. It was the climate of waste, poor management, and stifling red tape which prompted Washington to insist on the appointment of an inspector-general to weed out the problems. One example of the task facing him was where a US$1 million security system was ordered for the New York headquarters, then scrapped when it failed to handle the traffic volume. Another bugbear is the lack of any meritocracy. The number of bureaucrats representing each country reflects precisely what amount that nation contributes to the budget. UN affairs expert William Durch believes the organisation will continue to lurch on in the same ungainly, if reliable manner, and that the overhaul sought by congressional hawks will not occur. 'It would be very difficult to redraw the UN charter. It would be like trying to start the US constitution from scratch,' he said.