Low-paid official grabs spotlight

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2008, 12:00am

People looking for a pay rise from their boss could take a leaf from the book of a Guangdong village head who skilfully used the meeting of the nation's top legislature yesterday as an opportunity to get herself a salary increase.

Chen Xuemei, a National People's Congress delegate from Guangdong province and a grassroots village official in the city of Zhangjiang, yesterday seized the moment to ask provincial party boss Wang Yang for a pay rise.

She was among a few delegates chosen to give a speech before Governor Huang Huahua and Mr Wang. After speaking for a while, Ms Chen suddenly switched her topic to inflation.

'Everything is getting more and more expensive. This is what we, the village officials, care about the most,' said Ms Chen, the head of Dongjiao village in Longtan township under Zhangjiang's administration.

'We, as village officials, have to work very hard every day to help villagers solve their problems and brief them about the government's policies. But our salaries are only 300 yuan [HK$330] a month,' Ms Chen said. 'My motion is to raise our salaries. It will raise the grass-roots officials' morale,' she said, drawing applause and laughter.

Mr Wang turned to Zhangjiang Mayor Chen Yaoguang for an answer. But before the mayor could reply, Mr Huang jumped in.

He said 300 yuan a month was just the minimum salary level set for village officials and it 'certainly could be raised'. He suggested the city government take money from its pocket and give the rural officials a pay rise.

With all eyes turned on him, an embarrassed-looking Mr Chen said the city would consider it.

Guangdong Vice-Governor Ou Guangyuan waded into the debate, saying the provincial government should give every village official a moderate pay rise, as it would cost the government only an extra 200 million yuan a year.

'Your Putonghua is too heavily accented,' Mr Wang replied. 'I don't understand what you are saying.'

Failing to realise the party boss's subtle rebuke, Mr Ou went on to explain himself. Finally, he was cut off by Mr Huang.

'If we gave 200 million yuan to rural officials, the township officials would come to ask for pay rises, and then the city officials would be next. I think we need to think about this, and we could discuss it after the meeting,' he told his deputy.