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Hong Kong Monetary Authority

HKMA chief pockets HK$8.4m pay packet

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 2011, 12:00am

Norman Chan Tak-lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, received HK$8.4 million in pay and benefits last year.

That was more than the combined earnings of the bosses of the European Central Bank and America's Federal Reserve, Jean-Claude Trichet and Ben Bernanke.

And the HKMA, which is the closest thing Hong Kong has to a central bank, does not even have the politically sensitive job of setting interest rates because of the city's currency peg to the US dollar.

According to the HKMA's annual report, Chan received a HK$6 million salary, HK$1.5 million in performance-related pay and HK$858,000 in other benefits, including healthcare and life insurance.

ECB head Trichet earned Euro367,863 (HK$4.18 million) last year, while Bernanke earned US$199,700.

Chan's pay and benefits amounted to over a tenth of the HK$831 million the HKMA spent last year while Bernanke's pay came to 0.04 per cent of the Fed's US$425 million operating budget for last year.

When Chan took up his post in October 2009, the HKMA said his annual fixed pay would be HK$6 million. Civic Party legislator Ronnie Tong Ka-wah said he had 'no idea' why Chan was paid an additional HK$1.5 million for his work last year.

The HK$1.5 million represented the maximum variable pay the authority said the chief executive would get in his first full year in the job.

Tong added the investment returns on the Exchange Fund, the quasi-sovereign wealth fund that the HKMA manages on behalf of taxpayers, were 'frankly disappointing'.

The Exchange Fund made a 3.6 per cent return on its investments last year while the Hang Seng Index rose 58 per cent.

The fund is permitted to buy stocks, although it mainly holds US government bonds.

'How much will Chan's bonus be if the Exchange Fund ever has a bumper year?' Tong asked. 'Will it have to rise further?'

Chan has at least accepted lower pay than his predecessor Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, who took home HK$12 million in 2008, making him the world's highest-paid central banker that year.

An HKMA spokesperson could not be reached for comment by press time.