Legco pulls no punches over Ocean Park plea for lifeline

Top News | Charlotte Luo 21 Jan 2020

Ocean Park is a step closer to getting HK$10.6 billion in government funding despite lawmakers' criticism of its poor management and worries that an injection would merely go into a "black hole."

The Legislative Council's panel on economic development gave the green light to the plan yesterday, sending it to the finance committee.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum questioned if it was wise to inject this much money into the park, which has dipped into the red for four consecutive years and still has to repay HK$8 billion in loans to the government.

However, when New People's Party lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee moved the motion to vote for "whether the panel will support the park's repositioning plan," it passed 7-5.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah said many people agree Ocean Park is "Hongkongers' park" and it is now time for repositioning.

The park's executive director of design and planning, Celine Cheung Wing-yee, said if the government approves the funding, the attraction will generate HK$43.8 billion in economic benefits in 10 years and provide 11,000 jobs by the 2029-2030 financial year.

Chairman Leo Kung Lin-cheng said the park is an important asset, but is strapped for cash and needs government funding. Facing the unprecedented challenge, management will make the park more entertaining and push for more education and conservation work, Kung said.

He revealed the park has HK$400 million in cash - enough to maintain its operation until the end of the year.

Ip asked how the park could pay off several billion dollars in debt if it only has HK$400 million and said she is worried the government's cash injection is going into a "black hole."

People Power legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen asked if Yau would invest even 10 percent of the amount being asked from out of his own pocket.

When asked by Chan if there is any part of the funding request he is excited about, Yau replied that it is not about whether the government likes it or not - as the park was established due to law, adding that "what you like may not be what other lawmakers like."

Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said the park's financial condition has kept on getting worse, adding he is worried HK$10.6 billion would not be enough to relieve its capital flow problem.

Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho moved a motion to replace the park's board members and delay repayment of money owed to the government by five years. His motion was rejected.

Tourism lawmaker Yiu Si-wing moved a motion to support the repositioning plan, but with an added requirement to further explain how the park plans to effectively utilize the funding when the plan is submitted to the finance committee.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

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