splashing out Hong Kong takes securing big conference shindigs seriously and in the telecoms world, they do not come any bigger than the International Telecommunications Union global bash. This year's ITU in Switzerland may have been a shadow of past pre-bust extravaganzas, but the folks at the Commerce, Industry and Technology bureau are betting on a gala event in 2006 when Hong Kong plays host to the world's telecoms pointy heads. On Friday, the bureau will present its shopping list to the Legislative Council's finance committee. Among the $70 million demand is $14 million for a dinner hosting 2,500 'VIP' guests (apparently demanded by the ITU), $12 million for a publicity campaign and $7 million to cover the social programmes and pay for 'gifts and souvenirs' to be handed out to our techie visitors. Good to see the crusade against frivolous waste in these times of fiscal austerity is being fought so hard. three to go The ITU bash may be three years away, but for an industry that deals in light-speed communication, it would seem it is a jolly long time. Just ask PCCW which, under a proposed government timetable, must wait three years to get any respite from competitors piggybacking its network on the cheap. Outlining his plan for un-deregulating the market, was it just Lai See or did Director-General of Telecommunications Au Man-ho sound like harried cop Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs, who famously complained of having to do another three years undercover.