Senior staff at public bodies will soon face a pay review, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa disclosed yesterday. In his first meeting with the media in his capacity as an official candidate for the chief executive election, Mr Tung discussed topics from the economy to boosting social-morality education. He said the issue of pay for senior staff of public bodies was of concern to both the administration and the community. 'Public bodies are using taxpayers' money as well . . . We will actively look at this problem and conduct a further review,' he said, adding details would be unveiled soon. Mr Tung said it was possible that future political appointees under the proposed quasi-ministerial system would be paid less than senior staff at public bodies. On the economy, Mr Tung expected the unemployment rate would continue to rise, at least in the first half of the year. He declined to say whether it would go beyond its previous high of 6.4 per cent recorded in late 1998. Despite Argentina possibly floating its currency, Mr Tung said that the SAR Government had no plan to remove the Hong Kong dollar's peg to the US dollar. He said that unlike the debt-ridden South American country, Hong Kong had more than $300 billion in reserves and the back-up of the mainland. He stressed that great importance was attached to the unemployment problem among 40 to 50-year olds, pledging that if re-elected his administration would do its utmost to create more job opportunities. Facing a Budget deficit forecast of $60 billion, he said: 'What is most important is for the Government to try to cut its spending in various areas.' Mr Tung described the task of tackling the economy and unemployment as difficult but he was optimistic about being able to do so. 'I would like to reiterate that economic development and employment opportunities will be the key task of this SAR Government,' he said. Referring to a proposal for setting up a free-trade zone similar to that in the US, Canada and Mexico, he said the Financial Secretary, Antony Leung Kam-chung, would lead a delegation to meet officials from the Ministry of Foreign Trade for the first time on the issue later this month. The 800-member Election Committee will select the next chief executive on March 24 if there are two or more candidates when nominations close next month. Mr Tung also commented on an apparent scuffle between police and a teenager during New Year's Eve celebrations in Tsim Sha Tsui. He commended the police for maintaining order. 'The police's work is worth praising,' he said. TVB footage showed two officers apparently exchanging shoves and blows with a teenager. Police have denied there was any slapping during the incident. Mr Tung vowed to strengthen Hong Kong's civil and social-morality education. 'Hong Kong is a metropolitan city in Asia, we must attain a good standard and level of culture, civilisation and cultivated taste.' On the row surrounding the flag-raising arrangements in Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai on New Year's Day, Mr Tung said: 'The flag-raising has to be solemn and serious.' He gave an assurance that relevant departments would pursue the matter after tourism figures and the public complained that the ceremony was not solemn enough.