The government has slashed its proposed budget for the bid to host the 2023 Asian Games by more than half to less than HK$6 billion. The move, which could scupper Hong Kong's chances of staging the Games, has failed to satisfy critics on both sides. Supporters of the original bid question how such a huge cut was possible and say the new budget is sure to have an effect on Hong Kong's chances of being awarded the event. Others believe that the heavily pared-back bid is still too high. Yesterday, the venue subcommittee of the Asian Games Provisional Bid Committee offered to cut the direct cost of hosting the Games from the original estimate of HK$13.7 billion to HK$14.5 billion, to less than HK$6 billion. That would mean reducing expenditure by about HK$8.5 billion - money meant for expanding and upgrading planned indoor sports centres in Tai Po, Yuen Long and Sha Tin. 'The government is keenly aware of the community's concern at the potential costs involved in hosting the Asian Games. We therefore welcome the option ... that would reduce by more than half the direct cost of hosting the games,' Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said. The minister said the option put forward by the sub-committee had given the public 'an opportunity to consider from a fresh perspective'. The HK$6 billion estimate does not include more than HK$30.17 billion set aside for building sporting facilities that the government said would go ahead whether or not Hong Kong hosts the Games, plus an unknown sum for an athletes' village. But the city's largest political party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the latest move would not make them change their stance of opposing the games bid. 'How can there be such a huge difference?' the party's chairman Tam Yiu-chung asked. 'We have not changed our mind at this point and we will need to find out more details and the reasons for such a large difference in the proposed budget.' The Democratic Party and the Civic Party also questioned the flexibility of the financial estimates. 'I don't think this is logical. The government earlier told us that the original estimates were prudent and would not create any 'white elephants' - but how come we can now make such a large cut?' Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said. She was concerned that the government was trying to convince lawmakers by cutting the budget, but that it would then return to the Legislative Council later for more money in the future. Democrat Kam Nai-wai said the figures given by the government were confusing and unreasonable. Professor Chung Pak-kwong, the physical education department head at Baptist University, questioned whether a smaller budget would affect the quality of the city's bid. 'Hong Kong is not a poor city. If you have decided to bid for the Games, you have to present the strongest proposal and organise a good-quality event,' Chung said. But Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, chairman of the venue sub-committee, said the newest budget plan would 'still enable Hong Kong to provide competition venues up to the necessary international standards, without reducing the attractiveness of our bid'. He said the preliminary rounds of three unspecified events would have to be held at different venues. Eddy Chan Yuk-tak, head of the Asian Games bid team, said the three indoor sports centres, albeit reduced in scale, would still be able to meet international competition standards. The public consultation period for commenting on the bid closes on December 1 after being extended from six weeks. Counting the cost The original estimate of the direct cost for Hong Kong to host the 2023 Asian Games was between HK$13.7 billion and HK$14.5 billion which includes the capital cost of upgrading the venues and the operating cost of items such as staff and information technology. The latest estimate is less than HK$6 billion after subtracting the HK$8.5 billion originally budgeted to upgrade three proposed indoor sports centres. Apart from the direct cost, the government still needs a further HK$30.17 billion to build eight new venues, plus an unknown amount to build an athletes' village.