Date
20 November 2017
Transport Secretary Anthony Cheung (right) has insisted that Hong Kong needs to build a new runway at the city's airport, but not everyone agrees. Photo: HKEJ
Transport Secretary Anthony Cheung (right) has insisted that Hong Kong needs to build a new runway at the city's airport, but not everyone agrees. Photo: HKEJ

Concerns raised over new HK airport runway financing plan

Some former senior government officials have raised concerns over Hong Kong’s proposal to finance the construction of a third runway at the city’s airport through debt issuance and other initiatives such as a new levy on passengers.

The Airport Authority revealed plans earlier this week to fund a HK$141.5 billion new runway project with an additional HK$180 fee on departing passengers, along with higher charges on airlines, debt issuance and suspension of dividend payout to the government.

Lam Chiu-ying, a former director of the Hong Kong Observatory, expressed concern that overseas entities could gain control of the airport operator if it faces difficulties in repaying its debt.

Lam, who is now the convenor of People’s Aviation Watch, an industry concern group, also raised doubts whether the traffic volume will be enough to justify the new runway.

As Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport is expanding, it could take away some of Hong Kong’s traffic, he suggested.

Albert Lam Kwong-yu, former director general of the Civil Aviation Department, urged the government to disclose the pact that it inked with the mainland and Macau authorities in 2007 regarding airspace control in the region, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

The comments came after the government used the 2007 agreement to back up its arguments on the need for a new runway at the airport.

Representatives from the Civic Party and Labour Party are also planning to voice out their objections to the Airport Authority’s proposal, the report said.

Meanwhile, some critics say the Airport Authority should be able to handle the costs on its own without burdening the passengers.

There has also been criticism that the planned levy of HK$180 on each departing passenger is too high.

Secretary for Transport and Housing, Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, has insisted that it is necessary for Hong Kong to build a new runway.

Ivan Chu Kwok-leung, chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways (00293.HK), said Hong Kong’s Airport Authority is one of the most profitable companies in the world and that it should be able to finance the new runway through debt issue and borrowings without levying a passenger fee. 

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 19. 

Translation by Vey Wong

[Chinese version 中文版]

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