The money would be better spent battling unemployment or the deficit than paying stars like the Rolling Stones, they say Critics of the decision to spend up to $80 million on the Harbour Fest concerts say the money could be better spent reducing the deficit or the record unemployment rate. The three-week-long series of shows next month and in November, including concerts by the Rolling Stones, Santana, Jose Carreras and Jay Chou, has been jointly organised by the American Chamber of Commerce and InvestHK, the government's investment arm. It is being partly paid for by the government's $1 billion Sars rescue fund, designed to revitalise Hong Kong in the deadly outbreak's wake. Legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing said she asked whether it was wise to pledge so much to the Tamar-site festival when she spoke to Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen at a Taskforce on Employment meeting on Tuesday. InvestHK director-general Mike Rowse has said it is prepared to cover $80 million of Harbour Fest's $130 million cost. 'I have received some complaints from Hong Kong people asking whether we should be spending this money,' Ms Lau said. 'They ask, 'Are the Rolling Stones seriously a popular group?' and if they are, why can't the private sector fund the festival then? 'I am not opposed to the festival, in principle, if Hong Kong can do something to raise its international profile. But I am concerned about whether we should be spending this money on a festival given the high unemployment rate. Should it not be spent on that?' But Richard Pinder, regional managing director of Leo Burnett - an international advertising company that has been given the task of helping gather support for the festival within the local community - said the event would send a 'powerful message' to the world that Hong Kong 'was back on its feet'. Mr Pinder said the Hong Kong harbour front was a dramatic stage that would be certain to get front-page coverage from the international media, especially with the Rolling Stones confirmed to play. 'We need to do something photogenic. This is most likely to get us an international response and coverage on the front page, not the 'page-four ads' that the government usually does now,' he said. Although AmCham has not given details of the artists' fees, the Sunday Morning Post has reported that the Rolling Stones were offered US$5 million. Democratic Party legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said he also raised the issue at the employment taskforce meeting, urging the government to consider more pragmatic uses for the recovery fund. 'People needed a boost after Sars, but with events like the Real Madrid game having already taken place, isn't that enough already? Maybe these events should go to the private sector,' he said. Mr Cheng said that last year's $70 billion deficit and the current 8.7 per cent unemployment rate were more critical issues, with the recovery of tourism already seemingly well on its way. 'If you can use that money to help directly create jobs, then there would automatically be better support for Hong Kong's economy. I'm not worried about tourism anymore, given the individual mainland tourists.' Mr Pinder countered that in addition to selling Hong Kong worldwide, the event would also boost Hongkongers' morale. 'The world is going to come to Hong Kong and give the territory's people 'face'. It will make Hong Kong people feel good about things here and lead the rest of the world to look at the territory with more open eyes,' he said.