Donald Tsang

Should heads of state be allowed to take private sector jobs while in office?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am

Each week our two teenagers debate a hot topic. This week ...

Vanessa Lee

Ex-Thai prime minister Samak Sundaravej caused a big fuss with his cooking shows on TV.

Thailand's Constitutional Court forced Mr Samak out of office, ruling that he had illegally taken payments to host the shows while in power.

His government has also been criticised by the public.

So does the row mean that heads of state should not be allowed to engage in private employment while in office? Having a private job does not create problems for a leader to run a country.

As long as they fulfil their tasks responsibly, heads of state can use their free time to work for the private sector.

This may even bring benefits to a country.

The head of state can easily get an idea about what's happening in society. For example, if they take part in a radio show, they would be able to listen to the views of the poor and learn what the public think about their policies.

This will help leaders to do their job more efficiently and they will get a better understanding about people's needs.

Our Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, takes part in RTHK shows.

In Mr Samak's case, I don't think the television show had anything to do with his low approval ratings. The people were protesting against unfair rule and the corruption of his government.

Who would not welcome a cookery show by Mr Tsang or even President Hu Jintao ?

Jeffrey Wong

I believe that being in private employment while holding public office is unacceptable and unjustifiable.

To begin with, there is the matter of conflict of interest. Heads of state are paid to look after the country's interests and affairs.

If they are distracted by private employment, they will not give their full attention to the needs of the citizens.

Moreover, if their private and public jobs clash, they have to take sides - someone will always be let down.

While many heads of state no doubt have skills unrelated to politics, once they are in a position of such responsibility, they should be entirely focused on leading the country. It is hard to do that if you have a second job to think about.

Rather than taking up private employment, and facing all the potential hurdles related to that, heads of state should focus their energies and any spare time to voluntary work or charity organisations.

For example, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is Chancellor of City University. Other global leaders are spokesmen for charities.

While many people have part-time jobs, I believe heads of state should focus on the role the voters expect them to play.

They have a responsibility to the people of their nation to do the best job they can.

Financial or other temptations from outside that office should be discouraged.