Financial secretary’s HK$5 billion budget boost for Hong Kong sport not all that it seems
The injection effectively maintains the current level of usable cash for the programme after declining returns
Elite sports development in Hong Kong will receive an extra HK$5 billion as outlined in Wednesday’s budget, effectively maintaining the current level of usable cash for the programme, whose principal investment fund has been hit by declining returns.
The sports community had been hoping for an effective increase in funding to reinvigorate development after the city’s athletes returned empty-handed from the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
On a day when sport was afforded five paragraphs out of a total 200 in Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po’s annual budget speech, the government, which expects a surplus of HK$138 billion this financial year, set aside the amount as the latest injection into the Elite Athletes Development Fund.
Set up by the government in 2011, the fund is in place to provide a reliable financial source for the Sports Institute, which supports 19 tier-A sports at its training centre in Fo Tan.
Coupled with the HK$1 billion promised by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying in his last policy address, the total funding capital is now HK$12.5 billion.
The institute is only supposed to access the investment return on the sum, which was 2.8 per cent in 2017, down from 5.6 per cent in 2012 after the fund was launched.
Former SI chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing said after the Rio Games that the institute, which has a budget of HK$558 million in 2017-18, had been forced to use part of the capital because the investment return had not been enough to cover its annual expenses.
Following the Rio Games, Tong said the SI needed a long-term guaranteed funding source from the government for its growing band of elite athletes if they were to challenge for medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games in two years.
Lam Tai-fai, chairman of the Sports Institute, said: “We sincerely thank the government for confirming the efforts of elite athletes in the past years, and welcome all the sports initiatives in the budget.
“The SI is committed to working with the government and sports stakeholders to take elite sports development in Hong Kong to the next level.
“The athletes’ recent high-flying results would not be possible without the current consistent government support and partnership with the national sports associations and the Olympic Committee as well as the dedicated efforts of elite athletes and their supporting teams.
“The SI, as the delivery agent of the government in elite athletes training, will continue to work with our stakeholders to provide an environment in which elite athletes can be identified, nurtured, and developed to pursue excellence in the international sporting arena.”
Facing such a big surplus, the government also targeted sports in other areas. Another HK$1 billion will be injected into the sports portion of the Arts and Sport Development Fund to support sports organisations in the training of athletes and hosting competitions.
District sports will also get HK$100 million for the launch of a five-year district sports programmes funding scheme to encourage wider community participation.
To attract major events to Hong Kong, a new major sports events matching grant scheme of
HK$500 million will be launched to encourage the business sector to sponsor large-scale sports events, thereby providing local athletes with more opportunities to compete in high-level competitions on home turf.
However, there is still no concrete plan on how to attract the commercial sector.
“We know the importance of commercial sponsorship in hosting major events and will work out the details with sports associations as this is a new scheme,” said a government spokesman.