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  • Jul 13, 2014
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Public Eye

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2012, 12:00am

Top officials grossly overpaid

Do you know why our legislators want to double their pay? So they can earn at least half what our top officials earn. They want to play catch-up. Well, here's what Public Eye says: let's play catch-down instead. Do you know what our top officials make? More than HK$3.5 million a year. We have the highest-paid bureaucrats in the world except for Singapore. If we double the pay of our legislators they will end up making HK$1.7 million a year, plus expenses. Do you know how much British MPs make? About HK$800,000 a year. And US members of Congress? About HK$1.35 million a year. If our legislators double their pay they will end up making far more than legislators elsewhere - just so they can narrow the pay gap between them and our top bureaucrats. No, we say. Let's work it the other way round. Why should our top officials be so grossly overpaid? It's sickening that we have tens of thousands of people living in caged homes and subdivided slums yet our bureaucrats are the second-highest- paid in the world. Cut their pay. That's how we should narrow the gap between them and legislators, not by milking more of the taxpayers' money to inflate the pay of legislators.

Ignoring the working poor

Do you know who Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah reminds us of? US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. No, not in the way they look, but what they say about the poor. Romney confessed he wasn't that concerned about the very poor because they had a safety net. Tsang said virtually the same thing after he got flak for ignoring the working poor in his budget. Tsang told a radio show Hong Kong's poor could get free food and cancer drugs. How very nice. If you're poor and dying of cancer, don't worry - Tsang is here to help. He's among our top bureaucrats who make an inflated salary of over HK$3.5 million a year - the pay that legislators want to catch up with. Maybe once they do they'll acquire the skills to talk like him too. We can't have too many people caring about the poor suffering from cancer.

Plenty of jobs, but pitiful pay

John Tsang writes in his blog that the best way to improve the lives of the poor is to make sure there are plenty of jobs available. Makes sense, doesn't it? No. There are already plenty of jobs available in the labour market. In case the financial secretary doesn't know, Hong Kong's jobless rate is only about 3 per cent. It's not the jobs, it's the pay. We have tens of thousands of people who are dubbed the 'multiple nos' - they don't own homes and don't earn enough to pay tax, but they earn a teeny bit too much to qualify for welfare or public housing. So they ended up with nothing in the budget - no tax rebates, property tax waivers, public housing rent holidays and even free electricity because most live in subdivided flats where the landlord pockets the electricity rebate. They have jobs, Mr Financial Secretary. But the jobs don't pay enough for them to live even halfway decently. Not everyone makes HK$3.5 million a year.

Sounds of silence at the top

Is it just Public Eye or have you also noticed the sounds of silence? A shrill war of words is being fought between Hongkongers and mainlanders. A blaring hate advert in a Chinese-language paper described mainlanders as locusts. A mainland academic proclaims Hongkongers colonial dogs. Hostility is boiling over. This is the time our officials need to show leadership by calling loudly for calm. But all we hear is the deafening sound of silence. All those people who make 3.5 million bucks a year. Where are they? Probably too busy spending their money.

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