Equal pay for all lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 February, 2012, 12:00am


When it comes to pay, it seems lawmakers are united - they should all get the same salary increase.

Those elected by the public will be paid the same as those who represent small trade bodies and who are often perceived as underperforming.

A Legislative Council subcommittee has proposed that the pay of all lawmakers be raised to HK$141,000 a month from HK$73,150, on top of a medical allowance and end-of-service gratuity.

Transport-sector legislator Miriam Lau Kin-yee, chairwoman of the pro-business Liberal Party, said she disagreed with suggestions that functional-constituency legislators be paid less than their geographical counterparts. 'You can't prejudge that trade-seated lawmakers perform worse than those directly elected,' Lau said.

New Territories West lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung, also the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was also opposed.

'It is not good to divide them in this way. Some functional-constituency lawmakers are very diligent despite their smaller voter base.'

New People's Party chairwoman and Hong Kong Island lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said: 'It would be controversial and divisive. Although the size of their electorates vary, they are also subject to close monitoring by their voters.'

Dr Chung Kim-wah, director of the Centre for Social Policy Studies at the Polytechnic University, said: 'In principle, it would arouse doubts if all lawmakers - regardless of their performance - got the same pay rise. However, it would be politically controversial if they got different remuneration.'

Chung said the government could consider introducing a bonus mechanism with clear performance indicators.

Dixon Sing Ming, associate professor of social science at the University of Science and Technology, said it was a 'rather knotty question'. He said his research showed functional-constituency legislators generally had worse attendance, spoke less often and raised fewer questions than their counterparts, but there were exceptions.

He said: 'As Hong Kong is stepping towards universal suffrage, the idea of functional-constituency lawmakers enjoying a lower level of pay rise can be supported by the argument that it aims to provide a weaker incentive for people to become a trade-seated legislator.'

The Catholic Monitors report released last November revealed that Timothy Fok Tsun-ting - the sports, performing arts, culture and publication-sector lawmaker - finished last for the sixth straight year for his attendance record. He has not moved a motion in Legco for 10 years.

Heung Yee Kuk legislator Lau Wong-fat, finance-sector legislator David Li Kwok-po and commercial-sector lawmaker Philip Wong Yu-hong also performed poorly, in terms of their attendance and the number of times they moved motions or amendments, voted or spoke in the chamber.