image

Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Hong Kong lawmakers approve five-year high of HK$251 billion in government funding after changes to filibustering rules save hours

In previous Legislative Council session, Finance Committee gave nod to just HK$75.9 billion for projects

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 8:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 10:39pm

Hong Kong lawmakers approved a five-year high of HK$251 billion (US$32.2 billion) for government projects this legislative year after tighter rules on filibustering saved nearly 27 hours at meetings, the head of the committee that vets funding applications said on Wednesday.

Insurance sector lawmaker Chan Kin-por, who chairs the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee, also said he would not mind having a member of the opposition pro-democracy camp as his deputy.

“I’m OK with that … but people have to understand, the posts of chairman and deputy chairman are decided by voting [by lawmakers],” Chan said.

Deputy chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun, of the pro-establishment Roundtable group, said he would not seek re-election to the post in the coming Legco session.

Reviewing the committee’s work after Legco broke for the summer recess, Chan said lawmakers spent 184 hours in 54 meetings over the past 10 months, during which HK$251 billion in funding was approved.

That was more than three times the HK$75.9 billion approved in the previous Legco session, but below the record HK$374 billion in the 2011-12 session.

According to Chan, funds approved this legislative year included HK$168 billion for 36 public works items, among them HK$42.3 billion for the Central Kowloon Route trunk road project.

Reversing veto, Legco approves HK$180 million in projects

Lawmakers also approved 30 items for realising government policies, such as a HK$30.3 billion fund to develop innovation and technology in Hong Kong.

The committee also approved government proposals to create 68 positions in the civil service.

The dramatic increase in approved funding came after changes in the committee’s rule book in March. The amendments, moved by the pro-establishment camp, placed a limit of one non-binding motion proposed by each lawmaker on an agenda item and banned them from requesting meeting adjournments.

Chan said 26½ hours were saved in this Legco session after the rules were tightened with only three hours spent on non-binding motions.

He made the assessment after comparing the time used in the last session on adjournment motions, motions to shorten the division bell and non-binding motions, which totalled 29½ hours.

Pro-establishment veteran Martin Liao Cheung-kong had earlier suggested further amending the committee’s rule book to limit discussion of items already approved by its two subcommittees.

Funding proposals are first debated by the two subcommittees, and lawmakers are allowed to request further debates when items are tabled at meetings.

Chan said Liao’s suggestion was not ideal as it would draw criticism that the committee was becoming a “rubber stamp”.

That said, Chan urged lawmakers to limit themselves in requesting further debates at meetings.

“If they continue to do that, that may force us to make some changes,” he said.

Chan also said it may be time for younger lawmakers to take up the post of deputy chairman.

The pro-establishment camp would discuss who would run for the position, Chan said.