The central government has stumped up 5 billion yuan (HK$5.68 billion) - more than two-thirds of Guangdong's share of the cost of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge - to ensure that construction of the HK$37.45 billion link can start by the end of this year. In a briefing, National Development and Reform Commission vice-director Du Ying said the country's support for the bridge project was unprecedented. 'We are highly concerned about the economic situation in Hong Kong and Macau,' Mr Du said. 'We believe Guangdong and the two cities must work closely together to survive the global economic crisis ... that includes promoting cross-boundary infrastructure.' Mainland affairs commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the central government had been very helpful, as without its financial support Hong Kong could still be stuck in negotiation with Guangdong officials. 'The bridge was no longer as attractive to the province as it was when the idea was proposed 20 years ago,' Mr Lau said. 'Guangdong doesn't want to pay a lot for a project it considers more beneficial to Hong Kong now.' The three governments originally agreed last February that Hong Kong would pay 50.2 per cent of the difference between the construction cost and the private investment under a cost-to-benefit principle. Guangdong would have paid 35.1 per cent and Macau 14.7 per cent. But the ratio was changed six months later to 42.9 per cent for Hong Kong, 44.5 per cent for Guangdong and 12.5 per cent for Macau. A private consortium will finance 58 per cent of the project. Guangdong will now pay only 2 billion yuan - one-third of Hong Kong's capital payment of 6.75 billion yuan. Secretary for Transport and Housing Eva Cheng said earlier that the future managing board of the bridge - comprising officials from the three governments - would not give the biggest investor control over the development. But Mr Lau said that as the central government would probably leave operational matters - such as the bridge's tendering of design and construction work - to the three governments, disputes could arise over such matters as who gets which contracts. 'Guangdong will certainly want to keep the most benefit for its people, while the Hong Kong government, despite paying most for the project, lacks teeth in this regard.'