Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

May 15th, 2012:

Give … and take

HK Standard

Phila Siu and Eddie Luk

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The government gives with one hand and takes away with the other in its new order of pay.

Principal officials will see their monthly salaries rise to HK$322,260 from the current HK$282,080.

But political assistants will be hit hard under the mechanism revealed yesterday as they will get a pay cut or, at best, no increase.

Currently, each bureau can hire one political assistant for between HK$100,000 and HK$160,000 a month. Under the new system, their salaries are capped at HK$100,000 a month.

And while a bureau can hire more than one assistant ,the combined salaries cannot exceed HK$100,000.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi- yuen said the new pay scale for principal officials represents a rise of 8.1 percent based on the original salaries of the three key secretaries and 12 bureau chiefs.

They took a voluntary cut of 5.38 percent in 2009 during the economic crisis, and that pay level will be restored, making for an overall rise of 14.2 percent.

Tam argued that this rise is certainly overdue as officials at this level have not had an increase for 10 years despite inflation eroding their purchasing power.

The raise is also similar to that of senior executives in many local companies, Tam added.

“The Independent Commission on Remuneration suggests that we adjust the salary according to inflation over the years, that the increase should be 15.3 percent,” he said. “But the government has not adopted this figure.

“On one hand, we need some balance on this matter because the pay has not been increased for the last decade. But on the other hand, we need to practice self-control, and so the raise will be 8.1 percent.”

If adjustments are passed in the Legislative Council next month, the chief secretary will get a monthly salary of HK$357,300, the financial secretary HK$345,215 and the justice secretary HK$333,540.

All bureau chiefs will get HK$322,260 a month. At present, undersecretaries get either 65percent (HK$197,455) or 75 percent (HK$211,560) of the salary of bureau chiefs. Under the new proposals they will get 70 percent (HK$225,582) of the bureau chiefs’ salary.

The monthly pay for the newly created deputy chief secretary and deputy financial secretary will be 1.75 percent higher than the bureau chiefs.

Tam also said that pay-cut proposals for political assistants is in response to public criticism. “We understand that the public thinks the political assistants are getting high salaries,” he said.

And he hoped that assistants will change their working mode from working “behind the scenes” to meeting the public more.

The government will save HK$5 million a year under this adjustment, he added.

Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung of the Neighbourhood and Workers’ Service Centre said the percentage of increase is too much.

“The public thinks it is unacceptable. They feel that the principal officials have the special power to give themselves a greater pay rise than the public.”

Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk- yan thinks the pay rise is too high. Additionally, he fears there will be too many political assistants, which will make it hard for lawmakers to monitor the administration’s performance.

Sinopec unveils massive plans for aviation biofuels production in China

In China, Sinopec wants to produce commercial scale biofuels for airplanes and has sought permission to do so from the country’s national aviation regulator. The company expects it could produce a third of the national aviation fuel demand, 12 million metric tons, from biofuels by 2020.

Sinopec produces about three-quarters of fossil aviation fuel used in China annually. PetroChinaplans to build a refinery for aviation biofuels by 2014 that would produce 60,000 tons annually.

Government that ditches records must have something to hide


Howard Winn
May 15, 2012

Government that ditches records must have something to hide

In years to come, the period following Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty will be of interest to historians. What were the challenges facing the government? How in practice did the “one-country, two-systems” model work? Did the motherland allow government officials to get on with their work undisturbed or was their influence overly pervasive? We will probably never know the details due to the Hong Kong government’s abysmal approach to vetting and archiving public documents. The records of how senior government officials spend theirtime,and who they meet and where, is not being recorded. Hong Kong’s historical documents are either rotting away or being destroyed. In “The memory hole: why Hong Kong needs an archives law”, a Civic Exchange report published last year, the group reports that when the government moved to its new headquarters, 1,181.7 metres of documents were approved for destruction between April and September of last year. That is almost three times the height of the Two IFC building. Professional archivists say it is impossible for such a volume of documents to have been properly screened. This is why the Archive Action Group, which was founded four years ago by former judge William Waung, has been agitating for the need for an archives law, which Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s government has opposed. An Audit Commission report to the Legislative Council last year said the Government Records Service had failed miserably in practically every aspect of its remit. So it would appear that we won’t be reading Donald’s diaries in years to come. This is unfortunate, since interest in his activities has heightened after reports of his schmoozing with tycoons. How often did he meet them, and where, and how did he get there? The government’s steadfast opposition to an archive law is baffling unless it has something to hide. Do they reveal too much of the government’s links with tycoons? Another mess for chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying to clean up, perhaps?

Description: Donald Tsang

EPA announces standards for small particle pollution

IN THE AIR::The EPA said its standard was as strict as in the US or Japan, and that it was also setting emission standards for major sources of pollution

By Lee I-chia / Staff Reporter

Tue, May 15, 2012 – Page 2

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday announced regulations on PM2.5, or particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometers, setting the standards at a maximum 35μg/m3 daily mean concentration and a maximum 15μg/m3 annual mean concentration.

Particulate matter (PM, also known as fine particles) refers to tiny fragments of solid matter suspended in the air that can easily cross the lung wall into the human body after inhalation, affecting health, the EPA said.

Earlier this year, several doctors and medical groups warned that high exposure to fine particle pollution may cause slow mental development in children, increasing rate of fatal cardiovascular and pulmonary disease and other health problems.

Air Quality Protection and Noise Control Department Director Hsieh Yein-Rui (謝燕儒) said the standard was the same as the current standard in the US and Japan, which is the strictest level listed in national regulations globally.

The EPA said the preliminary goal was to achieve the 15μg/m3 annual mean concentration by 2020 nationwide, and the administration will review the air quality standard for PM2.5 periodically, looking to achieve the level of WHO air quality guidelines — 25μg/m3 daily mean concentration and 10μg/m3 annual mean concentration.

There are seven air pollutants listed for monitoring and determining the Pollutant Standards Index at present, and PM2.5 is the eighth pollutant to be included.

Hsieh said the administration was also setting emission standards for major sources of pollution, such as the steel industry, since it gave advance notice of amendment to air quality regulations in December last year.

The EPA said that according to the different local gas emission features, the administration is now working on setting standards for gas emissions from the steel industry in Greater Taichung, dioxin emissions from steel smelting plants in Greater Kaohsiung, gas emissions from electric power facilities in Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung, and regulations for the petrochemical industry.

The PM2.5 air quality monitoring will be done manually at 30 monitoring stations nationwide, the EPA said, adding that the work is scheduled to begin in July or August.

Published on Taipei Times :
Copyright © 1999-2012 The Taipei Times. All rights reserved.