Airport financial deal kept secret 'in public interest'

CHIEF Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said yesterday the Government had to keep the latest financial proposal for the Chek Lap Kok airport secret to ensure an early agreement with China.

Despite being pressed by legislators to reveal the fourth financial package at yesterday's Legislative Council Finance Committee meeting, Mrs Chan said it was not in the public interest to disclose the package yet.

She said a new package had been handed to the Chinese side and the Government had pressed for a meeting with China to conclude an early deal.

Pro-China legislator Tam Yiu-chung said recent press reports contained details of the financing plan and queried whether it was the Government or Executive Councillors who had failed to heed the confidentiality rule.

Pointing out he did not support the Government's move to pump more funds into airport projects at this stage, Mr Tam asked whether such a move would dampen the chances of striking a deal with China.

But Mrs Chan said it was needed to avoid any delay, and none of the items needed consultation with China.

Apart from Mr Tam and Philip Wong Yu-hong, the Finance Committee voted for four funding proposals totalling $4.7 billion at 1997 prices relating to the airport core programme projects, including: $1.3 billion for the remaining works of the Lantau Fixed Crossing; $145 million for certain airport railway advance works; $1.9 billion to provide infrastructure for the Tung Chung phase I new town and the new airport; $1.4 billion for government facilities at the Chek Lap Kok airport.

Members pressed the Government to promise completing the Kowloon to Chek Lap Kok airport rail link by mid-1997 but the Government was unable to assure them.

Principal Assistant Secretary for Transport, Arthur Ng, would only say the Government hoped the section could be finished by June 1997 to coincide with the airport's opening.

He also failed to give a date beyond which the airport railway could not be completed as scheduled.

Meanwhile, legislators approved a funding proposal to allocate $6.8 billion as an initial capital injection to a sewage services trading fund to finance the construction of the high priority programme.