Political parties yesterday agreed the government should study ways to better use revenue generated by the Exchange Fund to help improve the economy and fund services amid the economic recovery. In a debate on the budget, most of the parties also said the government had failed to introduce sufficient measures in last month's blueprint to speed up the recovery and reduce the public's financial burden. Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat renewed his party's demand for the administration to use more of the profits generated by the Exchange Fund to reduce the budget deficit. The government shortfall for the 2005-06 financial year is projected at $10.5 billion. Ma Lik, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong, said the money in the fund was a public resource and should be used as such. 'The government should have new thinking. What good is it when the government hoards all the money?' he said. 'It is right not to touch the fund for the sake of stability, but the profits should be used. 'It is public money, and there is no reason why it should not be returned to the public.' Their calls were echoed by James Tien Pei-chun, leader of the Liberal Party, who said the government should review how the profits generated could contribute to the general revenue. At present, about $280 billion in government money is held by the fund, and most of the fund's returns are reinvested. The amount the government receives varies depending on investment circumstances. Mr Tien also repeated his request that the government reconsider opening a casino to sharpen its competitive edge and create jobs, after Singapore unveiled a similar plan. 'Everybody else is considering it. Perhaps we should also do so,' he said. He said the central government was concerned Macau could be affected if Hong Kong had a casino, but the two cities could work out a co-ordinated strategy to minimise competition. Many lawmakers criticised the budget for failing to introduce concrete measures to fight poverty, while others attacked the continued cuts in education and welfare and the failure to boost employment. While pro-business lawmakers backed the abolition of estate duty, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, of the Article 45 Concern Group, said the levy should be reformed but not abolished. Democratic Party member Cheung Man-kwong said the party would move an amendment on abolishing the Constitutional Affairs Bureau to save taxpayers $3 million a year. He said the bureau's most important function - constitutional affairs - was already overseen by the chief secretary, while electoral affairs were handled by the Electoral Affairs Commission.