The long-overdue Kai Tak sports complex faces further delays after the government dropped a funding request for construction in a last-minute bid to thwart a plot by pan-democrats to derail a border crossing project by filibustering in the Finance Committee.
In a letter dated yesterday to the Finance Committee, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Professor Chan Ka-keung said: "There is great urgency for [the Finance Committee] to deliberate on the funding proposals relating to the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point and associated works.
"In order to reserve more time for members to deliberate … the government has decided to withdraw [the sports complex] from the agenda tomorrow [May 22]."
About two weeks the Legco public works subcommittee approved HK$62.7 million in funding for pre-construction work on the HK$25 billion Kai Tak Multi-Purpose Sports Complex. It was supposed to go for a final vote at a meeting of the Finance Committee today.
But officials say funding for the Liantang project is urgently needed as tenders for the work expire in July and August. Failing to get the cash in time could result in delays and a sharp rise in costs estimated to be soaring by at least HK$70 million a month.
The crossing was agreed between the Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments in 2008 and was due to be completed in 2018.
Earlier this month the public works subcommittee, dominated by pan-democrats, rejected requests for an extra HK$8.7 billion for the border crossing. So the government went to the Finance Committee for funds.
Vivien Lau Chiang-chu, chairman of the Hong Kong Tenpin Bowling Congress, expressed disappointment at the decision. "It wasn't easy for the project to get past the public works subcommittee," said Lau.
Ma Fung-kwok, lawmaker for the sports sector, said he appreciated the government's difficulty. "If the money for the Liantang project is not endorsed in time, it could result in a much bigger loss in public money."