Don't let retiring senior civil servants work

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 January, 2005, 12:00am

The former commissioner of police was permitted to draw wages from outside work while the government continued to pay his monthly salary.

The government is still insisting that he is not enjoying double benefits. This is not very convincing to the public. The government is always against its staff drawing double benefits, such as housing allowances. If the money involved this time was listed as 'housing allowance', I am sure it would overturn many previous convictions.

The government has declared publicly that another salary earned during pre-retirement leave is the right of civil servants. This will help many civil servants take the government to court in future.

Ordinary civil servants do not enjoy 360 days' accumulated leave, which is only allowed to expatriate staff or those at the top end of the directorate scale. This is why the normal six-month 'freeze' for retiring civil servants usually rules out the double-benefit problem. The public should know that the possibility of a double salary is limited to a privileged few. If the people are not happy with the government's explanation, it should change its regulation to ensure that all staff are not able to work during the salary-earning period.

Besides, there is a big question over why these well-paid officers are so keen to start work again shortly after retirement. They will not be short of money. Is it because their new employers want to make use of their government knowledge or contacts as soon as possible? Dreaming up a set of duties or a title with no conflict of interest for official approval is easy. The difficult part is the willingness and determination of the government to stamp out this malpractice.

RAYMOND CHAN, Causeway Bay

Move people off welfare

I echo Bernard Chan's call for the business community (and others) to contribute more to fight local poverty ('Remember the needy on our doorstep', January 7).

Seeing and feeling the impact does help us appreciate the hardship of the less-privileged. More can be done to convince the business community and public that the 'needy' are in fact needy and that the problem is being viewed in the right perspective.

Often, both sectors may resort to the excuse that the welfare system has been abused and is supported by a group of people with vested interests. And there are plenty of illustrations of this. A woman who survived the tsunami during a trip to Thailand with her husband had been receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) for five years since the age of 22. But this is an isolated event. The public may ask what social workers did to help this woman build her skills over the five years. Did they give her the right pressure or incentive?

A broader question is on welfare's performance evaluation system. I hope being able to assist the recipients out of CSSA is an important criterion, besides helping them obtain and maintain assistance. The public needs to know more about the welfare organisations, their compensation structure and how efficiently they use resources.


Debating Elsie Tu

Elsie Tu's letter (January 10) is a ragbag of disingenuous and selective responses to the charges levelled at her by Peter Berry (January 6).

I also recall Ms Tu's fervent anti-establishment words when she was called Elsie Elliot. Compared to other champions of political and economic rights, she was the Emily Lau of her generation, admirably strident. After rejection by the Legco electorate and Governor Chris Patten, she became even more fiercely pro-Beijing.

Mr Berry suggested that her refusal to support full democratic rights for Hong Kong should prompt 'shame' on her part. I suspect she has been a supporter of the Chinese Communist Party's policies for Hong Kong for longer than I would like to think.

If she wants to prove Mr Berry, me and her former electors and admirers wrong, she could tell us of at least three major post-handover political issues on which she has forthrightly expressed her opposition to the Communist Party. Or she could detail at least three major issues on which she has opposed the Tung Chee-hwa administration with the same fervour as she opposed the colonial administration.

I will be happily surprised if she can name even one issue to dispel any perception that a semi-heroic poacher became a spiteful gamekeeper.


Socialism our best hope

Once again Hong Kong has been awarded the dubious accolade of being the world's freest economy. Thinking the capitalists would be happy with this, I was surprised to read Simon Patkin's article 'Be selfish, businessmen' (January 7), in which he attacks environmentalism and socialism for restricting economic liberty.

Mr Patkin argues: 'For companies, morality includes protecting the rights of shareholders above trees and animals to maximise profits.' For him, utopia is a world where companies are allowed to pollute our land and poison our water in the name of profit. He claims that 'capitalism alone allows man to choose the values that will sustain his life'. Wrong.

Capitalism allows the rich to choose the values that will sustain their life of luxury at the expense of the workers, who created their wealth. Man's greatest achievements are born not of capitalist greed but of socialism. Take a look at societies without public housing, free health care, free education for all and trade unions, and you will see families sleeping on the street, millions dying from curable diseases, knowledge being a reserve of the rich, and children working in sweatshops.

Socialism may well be a dirty word in Hong Kong, but it still remains mankind's best hope for a fairer world.

JACK MUIR, Causeway Bay

No money power

'Chronic and institutionalised lack of fiscal discipline, uncontrollable public-sector expenditure, excessive and unsustainable government debt'. Such evils, which Chester Kwok Tun-ho seems to attribute to universal suffrage ('More power to the taxpayers', January 12), can equally be the product of bad policy-making.

The basic premise of his proposal to give salaried taxpayers votes in accordance with the amount of tax they pay and to return a third of the Legislative Council membership in this way is, in any case, false as the council does not make policy and can only veto the government budget. It has no constitutional power whatsoever to make the government spend money on anything.

GLADYS LI, Central

Restart Phuket tourism

Without wishing to belittle the appalling suffering and loss experienced by so many, I feel that the foreign media is giving a wrong impression about what happened in Phuket.

The island is not devastated, as is Aceh, where a nightmare scenario is still being played out. Here, two or three hundred metres from the sea, you would not know anything had happened. This was so even on the day itself. The infrastructure, which is quite developed because Phuket is dedicated to tourism, is intact. Communications are back to normal. The resources were immediately available to repair the damage, which, though considerable, was confined mostly to businesses and buildings on ground floors along the coastal fringe.

The only help needed now is technical, forensic assistance in identifying hundreds of bodies, mainly those who died at Khao Lak, up the coast, and Phi Phi islands. Otherwise, the only real help that one can give Phuket is to come here for a holiday. So many families depend on visitors. They need their livelihoods back.



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