Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 08:52
Lam warns of filibusters consequences
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Lam warns of filibusters consequences
A screensnap of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor briefs reporters before an Executive Council meeting on May 13. (Photo / news.gov.hk)

Acting Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor — worried about filibusters in the Legislative Council (LegCo) — warned that late approval of the budget will delay relief measures and key public works projects.

The LegCo will resume debating the Appropriation Bill (2014) today (Wednesday). Lam, briefing the press before an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, admitted that the chances of passing the budget on Wednesday were “very slim”.

The delay will certainly hold up these measures, including extra allowances for welfare recipients and one-month payments to public rental housing tenants. Interim funding will only last until the end of May. Filibustering might also hinder regular public services, she said.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah will host an emergency meeting this Thursday. Government officers will work out contingency plans once the interim funding runs out. Lam warned that disruption to public services was inevitable.

The chief secretary is also concerned about filibusters that threaten to stall the LegCo Finance Committee’s debate on a proposal relating to the North East New Territories developments and the Public Works Subcommittee’s approval of waste treatment facilities.

Some 47 funding proposals are pending approval before July. These include redevelopment of Queen Mary Hospital and 29 other public works projects. But they could be held up if Finance Committee proceedings are blocked by amendments tabled by a few opposition lawmakers.

Lam said the “big traffic jam” would have “very serious” consequences. It could delay the progress of new services and facilities. But it might also drive up the cost of public work projects if funding cannot be secured before the tendering process ends.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man told reporters on the sidelines of an event later in the day that the re-tendering of the Queen Mary Hospital redevelopment might exceed seven months. The government also expects tenders to rise no less than 10 percent.

But any hopes of something which could address the issue at a subsequent meeting of LegCo’s Committee on Rules of Procedure were dashed. This was because lawmakers from the pro-establishment and opposition camps remain divided over measures to regulate filibustering.

Subcommittee Chairman Tam Yiu-chung, who also chairs the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said some pro-establishment legislators were concerned about possible resistance from the opposition. This could occur if a motion to end a debate requires the consent of a two-thirds majority of the House Committee.