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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.

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