Public anger over pay-rise plan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2012, 12:00am


Members of the public yesterday welcomed a call to shelve a proposal to double lawmakers' pay.

And they spoke out against the whole idea of linking lawmakers' pay to that of public servants.

A committee of lawmakers has recommended Legco members' pay be raised from HK$73,150 a month to HK$141,000 a month - 40 to 50 per cent of the salary of bureau chiefs.

However, Emily Lau Wai-hing, who heads a Legislative Council subcommittee on members' remuneration, wrote a letter to all 60 lawmakers on Friday, proposing they hold off submitting the pay-rise plan to the commission which sets their pay, given the lack of consensus.

At the first open day yesterday at the new Legco complex in Admiralty, visitors said public servants such as bureau chiefs were too highly paid as it is. Some agreed that not all lawmakers should be paid the same.

Civil servant Simon Chan was particularly angered by financial services sector lawmaker Chim Pui-chung, who said he doesn't care about the pay rise as he could win or lose HK$10 million in a poker game. Performance-based pay was preferable said another visitor, Peter Ng, who wanted a guarantee that the 30 lawmakers representing functional constituencies fulfilled their duties.

Others were not convinced that lawmakers' salaries should be linked with officials'. Their roles are not comparable, noted Form Four student Wan Hok-lan.

Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing admitted lawmakers were still divided about how much they should be paid.

'Legislators suggested their salary should be linked to that of officials because it could eliminate controversies about how their salary is calculated,' he said. But they had not agreed what proportion of a bureau chief's pay they should get.

As for the performance-based pay suggestion, Tsang said it was hard to measure quantitatively how good a legislator is. 'Even if someone attends more meetings, it doesn't mean he is the best among all lawmakers. A lot of work can be done outside meetings,' Tsang said.

The subcommittee on pay, of which Lau is the chairwoman, will discuss the issue when it meets on Tuesday. Lau said 10 lawmakers had aired doubts about the proposed pay rise and she was not confident members would be able to reach a consensus at the meeting.

Political analyst Ma Ngok said the salaries of Hong Kong's public servants are among the highest in the world - and several times those of counterparts elsewhere in the developed world.

'The fundamental problem is that citizens don't think Stephen Lam Sui-lung [the chief secretary] or [bureaus'] political assistants should earn the amount they do now,' he said.

Ministers such as Lam are paid HK$282,076 a month.

The proposed lawmakers' salary would compare favourably with that of political assistants, the lowest tier of the ministerial ranks, who earn HK$126,935 to HK$155,140 a month.

On top of their salary, lawmakers receive a HK$28,020 annual medical allowance and an end-of-service gratuity of 15 per cent of their pay over four years.


A December poll by HKU found that this percentage of 1,035 respondents were dissatisfied with the performance of lawmakers