A total of $6.8 billion has been earmarked for new services next financial year, with education, environment and employment given priority. However, lawmakers said the Government was being too mean and called for more spending on the environment and on people in need. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, consulting lawmakers on the 2001-2002 spending plan, said the Government would allow spending growth of 2.5 per cent. With the $2 billion expected to be saved through the Enhanced Productivity Programme, there would be at most $6.8 billion for new services next financial year. But Acting Secretary for Treasury Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said about 70 per cent of the money had been reserved for growth in pensions and for services including new hospitals and schools. She denied the money left over would do little to help the needy. Distribution of funds will be considered by the resource bidding committee this summer. Lawmakers at a special Finance Committee meeting were adamant the public and small and medium enterprises had not felt the 'robust' economic recovery outlined by the finance chief. Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Confederation of Trade Unions, urged Mr Tsang to find more for the needy. 'Couldn't you loosen your tight grip a bit and budget the growth higher than 2.5 per cent?' But Mr Tsang said it would be 'risky' for the Government to increase the planned growth simply because of recent improvements such as the unexpected budget surplus of more than $9 billion in the past financial year. With public spending accounting for 20 per cent of gross domestic product, Mr Tsang warned against further expansion. Public sentiment, Mr Tsang said, would improve towards the end of the year. 'I think we are going through ups and downs. But I believe the fundamentals remain quite good; the recovery is quite robust.' He said the 2.5 per cent growth was only limited to recurrent spending. 'There is, of course, better scope in the capital expenditure programme. The priority items members have expressed to me coincide with ours. These are education, environment and employment. These will be the areas we are focusing on in directing our future resources.' He also stressed the need to raise government fees and charges. Proposals to recover the full cost of services within seven years were moderate and reasonable, he said.