Appointees plan to leave salary cuts in place
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his team of political appointees will try to avoid controversy by not restoring their salaries to their 2009 levels, even though senior civil servants have been offered a 7.2 per cent pay rise from July, according to a government source.
Tsang and other appointees took voluntary pay cuts in June 2009 at the height of the financial crisis to demonstrate their willingness to share the community's pain.
A government source said appointees had exchanged views among themselves on whether they should restore their salaries after civil servants were granted pay rises in June, but decided against it.
Civil servants in the upper salary band have been offered a 7.24 per cent pay rise, which took effect in July.
'Restoration of appointees' salaries to pre-pay-cut levels would unavoidably create political troubles for the government, given the current political climate,' the source said.
A government spokesman confirmed that the political team had no plan to readjust their salaries.
In June 2009, Tsang and 33 political appointees took a voluntary pay cut of 5.38 per cent from the next month of that year, in a show of solidarity with Hongkongers who were riding out the global financial crisis.
The voluntary pay cut - which includes policy secretaries, undersecretaries and political assistants - saves taxpayers just HK$440,000 a month.
Dr Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said restoring the appointees' salaries would hand ammunition to critics and opponents of the government and groups friendly to it in the forthcoming district council elections.
Unlike with civil servants, there is no system for adjusting the pay of appointees.
Salaries for civil servants have been increased three times since 2008, when the government expanded the political appointment system.
In May 2008, the government appointed eight undersecretaries and nine political assistants. But the administration was criticised for its handling of a row surrounding the foreign passports held by some political appointees and initial refusal to disclose their salaries.
The undersecretaries and political assistants subsequently disclosed their salaries under public pressure. Currently, the monthly salaries of undersecretaries and political assistants range from HK$126,930 to HK$211,560.
A policy secretary earns HK$282,080 a month, compared with the newly adjusted HK$208,250 for a permanent secretary who is considered part of the civil service. A permanent secretary earned HK$194,200 a month before this year's pay rise.
Donald Tsang's monthly salary, in Hong Kong dollars
- Civil servants in upper salary bands offered a pay rise of 7.24 per cent