Review of civil servants fringe benefits proceeding: Wong

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2005, 12:00am

Updated at 6.17pm:
Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said on Thursday the government was continuing to review civil servants' fringe benefit allowances.

He announced that a new consultation paper had now been issued on the review of fringe benefit allowances.

'At the same time, we have informed the Legislative Council Panel on Public Service the outcome of the review so as to enable us to discuss the matter further at a future meeting,'' Mr Wong told reporters.

In recent years, the government has been forced to reduce civil servant salaries, benefits and staff numbers as part of a move to slash government spending and lower its fiscal deficit. Hong Kong's civil servants have traditionally been very well paid by international standards.
Mr Wong said any changes to civil servants' remuneration would be in accordance to the Basic Law - the territory's mini-constitution.

'We have taken full account of the recent Court of Final Appeal's interpretation of the Basic Law provisions on civil service remuneration which is, generally speaking, the remuneration of civil servants should not be below the 1997 level.

'I am confident that the outcome will be broadly acceptable to the civil service. I will explain the outcome of the review to Legco members as well as to the public.

'I am also hopeful that eventually our package of proposals will win the support of the community at large.
Asked if future government plans could undermine civil service morale, Mr Wong said: 'Where we believe it is lawful and reasonable and fair to make changes, whether or not it is to abolish a certain allowance or to adjust the rate of a certain allowance downwards, I think we have no hesitation in so recommending.

He noted that civil service housing allowances were also being examined.

'In so far as the housing allowances are concerned, in fact, we have been reviewing different types of housing allowances on a regular basis.'

Mr Wong said the most recent review of civil service fringe benefits occurred in 2000. At the time, the government introduced a Non-accountable Cash Allowance to replace all other forms of housing allowances.

'We will of course continue to see whether or not there is any scope for improving the management of the allowances. But by and large we believe housing allowances have good reason to continue for the civil service,' he added.