Partial privatisation may be 'sexy' but HK chamber says proposal lacks clear objectives and fails to define areas that need improvement The Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce has strongly recommended that the government abandon its plans for the partial privatisation of the Airport Authority. In a letter to Sandra Lee Suk-yee, permanent secretary for economic development and labour, the chamber's chief executive, Eden Woon Yi-teng, said the government lacked clear objectives for the exercise and had yet to define what was wrong with the airport's present operating environment. 'The business community and the chamber ... have long argued for greater reliance on public-private partnerships and privatisation,' Mr Woon said. 'It is with the greatest reluctance that we find ourselves unable to support this particular project.' For the past 18 months, the government has been laying the groundwork to raise a reported $10 billion by floating a 25 per cent stake in the authority, which manages the airport. Earlier this year, the government was ordered by the Legislative Council to consult the industry after reports that user charges might have to rise 25 per cent at Chek Lap Kok to increase its valuation caused an uproar. In his letter to Ms Lee, Mr Woon said the government's motivation for the exercise had been so vaguely presented that even the consultation process was 'premature'. 'Before proceeding with the consultation on the means of achieving the specific goals of a particular privatisation project, the objectives must be clear,' he said. 'If the purpose is to raise money, there should be clearly stated reasons why the funds are needed.' The consultation ended last month and an official from the bureau said it had received 60 to 70 submissions with no clear consensus emerging. It is not yet known when the findings will be released. Mr Woon's comments echoed those of Elizabeth Bosher, a former executive director for the authority who is now Asia-Pacific managing director for aviation consultants Landrum & Brown. 'The problem the government has is that they don't have a solid reason for bringing private equity into the airport at the moment,' Ms Bosher said. 'Privatisation is sexy. I think there's an element of 'let's do it. It makes us look dynamic'.' Senior government officials have, to limited effect, repeatedly said 'it's not about the money'. The exercise is in part being considered to make the authority more efficient. But Mr Woon said his members believed the authority 'seemed pretty efficient right now'. 'We are puzzled by the lack of analysis as to the specific shortcomings that need to be addressed at the airport,' he said. 'Before analysing the means of privatisation for the purpose of improving efficiency, we would expect to see a detailed explanation of the benchmark criteria for measuring success and the reasons why such improvements cannot be made other than through privatisation.'