Hong Kong lawmakers back US$10m donation to AIIB fund as they seek greater role for city
City’s ‘accountants, lawyers, bankers and other companies’ should benefit from projects financed by China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Hong Kong lawmakers are giving their support to a government proposal to donate US$10 million to a special fund for commencing research at a China-backed infrastructure bank, as they push for an increased role for the city in return.
The donation plan for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was presented before a regular monthly meeting of the Financial Affairs Panel of the Legislative Council on Friday.
“The US$10 million is a one-off donation made to the AIIB special fund, which is aimed at helping some members who do not have strong financial capabilities to have the money needed to do some preparation research work for their infrastructure projects,” Joseph Chan Ho-lim, the Undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, said in the meeting.
Chan said this was different from the capital payment Hong Kong made to join the Beijing-based bank – the city agreed in June last year to pay US$155 million over five years. The bank, with a total capital base of US$100 billion, is a big economic diplomacy win for Beijing. The idea of creating a China-led regional bank was raised by President Xi Jinping in 2013. It now has more than 80 members, including the Group of Seven countries excluding the United States and Japan.
The bank is Beijing’s answer to the Asian Development Bank led by Japan and the World Bank, which is heavily influenced by the US. It was set up to help member countries finance their infrastructure projects, and the special fund is aimed at helping its poorest members. The fund has approved two grants for supporting preparation work for two infrastructure projects in Nepal and Sri Lanka, Chan said.
“As a responsible global citizen, Hong Kong has made contributions to funds of similar nature, to the ADB and other projects,” he said.
“Despite considerable economic progress in Asia over the past decades, poverty continues to affect the lives of millions in the region. The special fund can help its poorest members to tackle poverty by financing technical help to prepare projects for subsequent consideration and approval by the AIIB.”
China and Britain have each agreed to donate US$50 million to the special fund, while South Korea has agreed to pay US$8 million.
“Hong Kong’s donation at US$10 million is in line with South Korea,” Chan said, adding that the sum would be included in the budget of 2018/19.
Several lawmakers agreed to the donation but urged the government to fight for more opportunities for Hong Kong in the bank’s projects.
“We would support AIIB to help these countries to develop many infrastructure projects, but we would also like to see Hong Kong accountants, lawyers, bankers and other companies enjoy the financial benefits of these projects,” said Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-establishment party.
Chan said the Hong Kong government would fight for opportunities for Hong Kong companies in these projects.