Revenue estimates for the retail, dining and entertainment offerings in the West Kowloon arts hub were conservative, a government official said yesterday, adding that there would be ample income to cover the district's operation costs. The official also defended the plan to build the M+ mega-museum, saying it had been endorsed by international museum experts. Esther Leung Yuet-yin, deputy secretary for home affairs, made the remarks ahead of a meeting today of the Legislative Council subcommittee dealing with the project. An independent report released last week had raised doubts about whether the project would be financially viable, suggesting M+ would be a significant financial burden. Ms Leung said the estimated HK$8.4 billion revenue from retail, dining and entertainment venues was based on an average rental fee of HK$30 per square foot. 'It is a prudent estimation,' she said. 'The rental charge in neighbouring shopping malls such as Elements, Langham Place and Soho can cost between HK$40 and HK$80 per square foot. Our estimated rental charge is already a discounted price of what we will be able to get.' She said the planned terminus of a high-speed cross-border rail line in the district would attract travellers. Ms Leung said the government did not intend to build shopping malls inside the district, but would integrate catering and retail offerings with cultural facilities. The independent report, commissioned by Legco, had criticised the lack of a detailed business model illustrating how retail, dining and entertainment could be integrated with cultural facilities. Ms Leung also disagreed with a claim in the report that M+ would account for 89 per cent of the district's yearly deficit by 2059. She said the deficit should be calculated at HK$300 million, which was close to the current annual deficit of HK$500 million of public museums. Responding to the criticism that a HK$1 billion fund to buy an initial collection would be too small to acquire important works, Ms Leung said M+ would be different from conventional museums that rely on displaying precious collections. 'The selling point for M+ will be its curatorial programme. One-third of operation costs will be devoted to this aspect to attract artists.' The government plans to secure an endowment of HK$21.6 billion for the project from Legco by July.