More cash may go to retirement scheme

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 12:00am

More funds will be applied for if the $1.1 billion earmarked for civil servants who join a voluntary retirement scheme proves insufficient.

The funds, approved by the Finance Committee yesterday, will be set aside for 70,000 staff in 59 grades eligible to join the scheme.

The grades include surplus workers and staff in obsolete positions, including clerical officers, technicians and drivers.

Susan Mak Lok Suet-ling, Deputy Secretary for the Civil Service, said the Government would go to the Finance Committee for more funds if there were more applications than expected.

'We don't know how many will join,' she said.

About 3,500 staff, or five per cent, are expected to join the scheme, under which applicants are entitled to normal pension payments.

Each will be given six to 20 months' salary as extra compensation for early retirement.

Ms Mak said the estimate was a rough guess, not a target, stressing that the scheme was '100 per cent voluntary'.

Deputy Secretary for Treasury Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the scheme was cost-effective. It could take two years at the earliest or six years at the latest for the Government to recover the outlay.

A total of $657 million in salaries would be saved if five per cent of staff quit. Recruitment would be frozen for the 59 grades for at least five years, Ms Lam said.

Most members supported the scheme and funding.

But unionist Lee Cheuk-yan and members of the Federation of Trade Unions abstained.

Applications for the scheme will start in the autumn.