The economic downturn has prompted some civil servants to withdraw their applications for voluntary retirement. But only about 10 had managed to convince the Government to allow them to stay on, Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said yesterday. Speaking after a lunch aimed at promoting customer service culture in the Government, Mr Wong confirmed that about 300 staff had tried to make a U-turn after their applications for voluntary retirement had been approved. But Mr Wong said applicants had been told they would not be allowed to withdraw from the scheme once their applications had been approved. He said those who were allowed to stay had special reasons. 'We have been very careful in considering the reasons for withdrawal. That's why the number of cases approved is very small,' Mr Wong said. The Voluntary Retirement Scheme was introduced late last year to help the Government trim the civil service. The Civil Service Bureau had estimated that 3,000 staff would apply. But the scheme ended up with 11,000 applications early this year. About 9,300 officers' applications have been approved, with compensation totalling $2.78 billion. Federation of Civil Service Unions president Leung Chau-ting said the downturn following the September 11 attacks in the United States had prompted some who had applied to change their minds. 'They thought they would be able to take the compensation and find another job in the private sector,' he said. 'But after the September event, they realised that the environment was very bad and that's why they don't want to go.' Mr Leung believed most of the requests were rejected because of the Government's initiatives to trim the civil service. 'We hope the bureau will exercise discretion in light of the economic situation,' he said. Mr Wong said the number trying to withdraw was small compared to the 11,000 applications. About 8,000 officers are expected to leave the civil service by the end of the year. He said the Government would review the scheme before making any decision on offering another round of voluntary retirements.