THAT the Airport Core Programmes (ACPs) are the subject of a dispute between Britain and China is worrying enough. Even more worrying is the fact that Hong Kong is stuck in the middle and, should things go wrong, may end up picking up the pieces - and the bill. Britain and China both have poor track records of financial and economic management in their own countries, yet they are discussing financial proposals for Hong Kong, a place which boasts one of the best track records of financial management in the world; the prestigious Moody's Investors Service has paid tribute to this territory's strong economic management. As far as the ACPs are concerned, Britain and China have the authority to decide what should be done. They have the authority, but without the responsibility. Neither will have to bear the cost of its mistakes - increased expenses through delays, for example. These will be borne by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or SAR. My concern is that we in Hong Kong should do what we can to minimise unwarranted costs involved in developing and building Chek Lap Kok. It is, after all, our money. I can see three obstacles to agreement on the ACPs financial package, and none will be easy to solve. They are: The amount of equity injection by the Hong Kong Government. Lands allocation. Monitoring of the Airport Authority (AA). In April last year a revised budget of HK$112.22 billion for the ACPs was presented to the Legco sub-committee on ACP financing, based on March 1991 prices. In June 1992 this was revised into what is now known as the ''money-of-the-day'' (MOD) figure of $163.73 billion. Out of this, $68.5 billion was for the airport; $33.5 billion for the railway; and the rest for seven other projects. The 10th ACP is the privately funded Western Harbour Crossing. According to the Government's proposals, just over half of this total will come from borrowing and/or private participation. The Government will pay $55.23 billion for seven of the core programmes, $4.9 billion for facilities at the airport itself, $3.7 billion as an equity injection for the Mass Transit Railway Corporation (MTRC), and $16.6 billion as equity for the Provisional Airport Authority (which will later become the fully-fledged Airport Authority). The MTRC will borrow $29.80 billion for airport-related projects and the PAA/AA will borrow $31.6 billion; a total of $61.4 billion, or 37.5 per cent of the total. As far as money from private investors is concerned, there will be $6.5 billion for the Western Harbour Crossing and $15.4 billion for various facilities at the airport. This represents $21.9 billion, or 13.4 per cent of the total. Private funding should present no problem. But other private installations costing $15.4 billion - among them fuel, aircraft maintenance, aircraft catering, air cargo - are to be financed, built and operated under various licences requiring China's approval. If agreements are not reached with Beijing by December, this will result in serious delays and, more to the point, serious costs to the SAR Government There remains the borrowing. Various financial institutions around the world have said they would agree to lend the $61.4 billion to the MTRC and the PAA/AA, subject to China's approval. China, however, has hinted more than once that the sum should be met from Hong Kong's huge reserves. There is an old Chinese saying that if you have the money, why borrow? But as every home-owner knows, mortgages in an inflationary climate make a lot ofsense. It has been proposed that there will be 62 hectares of above-station commercial and residential development along the railway lines to the airport - development that could bring in at least $42 billion in land premiums. If half of this went to the SAR Land Fund, the remainder could be injected into the MTRC and the PAA/AA, thus reducing their borrowing to around $40 billion (this would be borrowing by the two corporations and, strictly speaking, not the Hong Kong Government). The Chinese, however, are sticking to the Memorandum of Understanding between Britain and China signed in September 1991, which limited borrowing by the Hong Kong Government to only $5 billion. The latest I have heard - and this comes from very dependable sources - is that the difference on the negotiating table between Britain and China is down to about $10 billion. If only $10 billion of borrowing is allowed, the Hong Kong Government's financial commitment to the ACPs would be nearly $132 billion, or more than 80 per cent of the total budget. In the end, however, this might be preferable to further delays. I am greatly concerned, as are some high-ranking Government officials, that once the PAA's financial needs are met the organisation will be virtually impossible to control. The PAA has had too many upsets during its ''provisional years'' - including the removal of its chief executive - for the public to have confidence in it. Ideally, members of the managing board, who are appointed by the Governor, should carry out a close monitoring role. But they are too busy. Some even find it difficult to attend the monthly board meetings. As a result, it is not difficult for the management to steam-roller the board. Some legislators have suggested that the director of audit should step in, but I am afraid his reports would be two or three years too late. When the MTRC was still provisional, the Honourable Lau Wah-sum was seconded to it as director of finance. He provided a vital link between Government and corporation, but just as important, he inspired public confidence in the MTRC. The money to be entrusted to the PAA is far greater than that involved in the early years of the MTRC. I suggest that two senior executives, one from the Government and one from Chinese banking circles, be seconded to the PAA/AA as executive officers. This may lead to the Chinese side feeling more relaxed and - who knows - might even expedite a satisfactory agreement to negotiations on the airport financial package. I pray that a satisfactory solution can be reached between Britain and China before Christmas, otherwise Hong Kong might lose its great reputation for sound financial management through no fault of is own. Samuel Wong Ping-wai is legislative councillor for the engineering functional constituency.