There is something suspicious about a government which states that wages of local service workers have remained stable over the past year but then, in the same breath, announces a five per cent pay cut in the minimum salary for foreign domestic helpers. This is a government which last year strongly opposed Hongkong Telecom's failed attempt to slash the salaries of its 13,800 local employees but now plans to take precisely the same action against 179,300 workers from overseas, who already earn much less than almost everyone else in the SAR. Even Provisional Urban Councillor Jennifer Chow Kit-bing, the high-profile advocate of tougher treatment for domestic helpers, admits yesterday's decision was a highly political one. Officials originally told her they would prefer to freeze salaries but eventually bowed to pressure from her and other groups. That much was evident from the way in which the figures Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping cited in support of yesterday's decision bore very little relation to the five per cent figure that appears to have been chosen almost arbitrarily for this wage reduction. At a time of economic austerity and declining salaries in the private sector, it is inevitable this decision will be welcomed warmly by much of the local community. But those who so enthusiastically endorse wage cuts for Hong Kong's most poorly paid would do well to stop and first consider what, if any, practical benefits this move will bring. It is not as if a $190 saving will make much difference to anyone who can afford the $3,670 it now costs to hire a domestic helper. Labour disputes will probably increase and the SAR will acquire an international reputation for unnecessary meanness. This decision will inevitably also put pressure on other salaries, despite the Government's insistence there is no reason why this should occur. And that means those who support pay cuts for domestic helpers may prove to be the ones who eventually lose out the most from this move.