PAA to limit role to basics

THE Government is to seek only enough money to pay for the Provisional Airport Authority's (PAA) basic operations in the absence of a Sino-British airport agreement, the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) vice-chairman, Mr Leung Kwong-cheong, said yesterday.

Speaking after a meeting with the Deputy Secretary for the Treasury, Mr Stephen Selby, Mr Leung said he was told it was necessary for the Government to seek further funds for the PAA.

If the PAA had to be dissolved due to a lack of funds, it would hit Hongkong's international reputation and undermine foreign investors' confidence, Mr Selby was quoted as saying.

If Britain and China could not secure an agreement on the financial arrangements for the new airport, the PAA would maintain only its basic operations, such as monitoring the Chek Lap Kok airport site formation and the design of the airport passenger terminal, Mr Leung said.

Mr Selby declined to reveal the size of funds needed by the PAA and the expected length of operations, Mr Leung said. The ADPL had yet to decide whether it would support the PAA funding request.

Meeting Point vice-chairman, Mr Luk Shun-tim, said the group would only approve further funds if the Government could give proposals on how to build the new airport.

''We are worried that more funds for the PAA would be wasted if there is no guarantee that the Chek Lap Kok airport would be completed,'' he said.

The Government is expected to table a funding request in the Legislative Council late next month. Present funds will keep the authority running until the end of June.

The Secretary for the Treasury, Mr Yeung Kai-yin, indicated to legislator Mr Lau Chin-shek that by mid-March Legco would need to approve another $960 million to keep the airport body running in 1993-94.

Slightly less than half of the $960 million related to the PAA's head office expenses from July 1993 to March 1994, while the rest related to design and construction costs.

In other words, Mr Yeung said, less than $480 million would be needed to keep the PAA's head office running for 1993-94.

The Secretary for Economic Services designate, Mr Gordon Siu Kwing-chue, yesterday said the Government was considering if and how the PAA could stretch its existing resources to enable it to continue operations after June.

But he rejected PAA board member Mr Antony Leung Kam-chung's proposal that the Exchange Fund could be used to help pay for the airport.