PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 1995, 12:00am

THE tepid response to the Government's intensive drive to recruit Chinese geotechnical engineers, despite millions being spent in the process, is a reflection on how daunting the problem of localisation is getting, especially when it comes to professionals (Sunday Morning Post, August 20). Presumably, difficulties are also being experienced in some of the other government departments dependent on technical support.

Those best positioned to assist are the ones with working experience in Hong Kong. And what better candidates can there be than the government retirees, whose strengths and weaknesses are an open book to the administration. There is a regular stream of civil servants having to terminate their professional careers, all because they have reached a certain pre-determined age. Imagine, how much poorer the world would have been but for the contributions of those who reached their prime of life at 60 or beyond. The fact is, many retirees today are in perfectly good health with potential to make a meaningful contribution to society.

True, fieldwork may be too strenuous for most, but their recruitment would at least partly release young people in their 30s who are tied to desk-bound jobs, instead of acquiring hands-on experience in the field. I am not advocating suspension of regular intake of qualified young people to accommodate old foggies. The Hong Kong youth must be afforded every opportunity to satisfy their career aspirations in an environment where competence and efficiency are valued. But the Government would be failing in its obligations to the community if it was unable to adequately provide the services for which it is responsible.

Should all endeavours to fill professional vacancies fail, they may then be opened to qualified retirees. Regardless of the position from which they retired, which would mostly be a directorate rank, they may be paid a fixed honorarium, say, corresponding to the top of the professional scale. To make it worth their while, especially those drawing pensions in that region, the honorarium may be additional to their pension.

All such appointees, whether expatriates or Hong Kong belongers, should be on local contract terms with the explicit understanding that they shall be ineligible for any promotion. And to distinguish them from the mainstream serving officers, they may be placed in a special category to be called 'disestablished professionals'. In deference to their earlier seniority, they may report directly to the head of the department and be given specific assignments to fit their background.

The next few years spanning the transfer of sovereignty are going to be crucial and highly demanding. Hong Kong can well use the talents of its erstwhile high calibre professionals in meeting those challenges.

B. S. MAKHIJA Clearwater Bay