The civil service chief has warned of possible pay cuts after the latest figures revealed the budget deficit reached $72.4 billion for the first seven months of the financial year. Secretary for the Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said yesterday the government would introduce measures to cut the deficit, including a possible further adjustment of civil service pay. 'We need to consider if the pay of civil servants should be adjusted in cutting government expenditure,' he said. Mr Wong previously has said civil service pay levels and the budget deficit were separate matters. It is believed other measures being considered include introducing a second round of voluntary retirements for civil servants. Civil service pay was cut by between 1.58 per cent and 4.42 per cent this year, a move that will save about $3 billion a year. A bill was passed to impose a cut although it aroused strong opposition from civil service unions. Mr Wong's remarks drew strong reaction from unions. They said he was pre-empting a decision by the Executive Council. Leung Chau-ting, chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions, said the Executive Council had not decided whether the pay trend survey of the private sector - which is usually used as a reference to decide the civil service pay adjustment each year - should be conducted. 'Mr Wong's remarks are pre-empting the Executive Council decision. He is paving the way for a cut,' Mr Leung said. Cheung Kwok-biu, chairman of the Hong Kong Civil Servants General Union, said Mr Wong had not followed the pay adjustment mechanism. He also criticised the government for always targeting civil servants when trying to cut spending. 'Civil servants' pay is always criticised for being high. This is because they have accumulated seniority,' he said. 'By the same logic, can we send someone with a doctorate degree, worth $50,000 a month, to replace Mr Wong?' Mr Cheung asked. Peter Wong Hyo, vice-president of the Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said cutting the pay of civil servants again 'would be like dropping stones on someone who has fallen into a well'. Figures released yesterday showed the budget deficit at the end of October had risen to $72.4 billion - a slowdown in its growth but still a 2 per cent increase on the previous month. At the end of September the deficit was at $70.8 billion. The rise in the deficit in August to September was much larger - growing by 26 per cent, from $56 billion. The deficit target for the whole year has been revised upwards from $45.2 billion to $60 billion. Fiscal reserves stood at $300.1 billion on October 31. Expenditure from April to the end of October amounted to $139.2 billion, with revenue standing at $66.8 billion - a deficit of $72.4 billion. A government spokesman explained that some major revenue items, including salaries and profits taxes, were mostly received towards the end of the financial year. 'It is too early at this stage to draw any conclusion on the deficit outcome for the full year,' he said. The spokesman added that the yearly deficit would be affected mainly by two items - the land premium and the sale of a second batch of MTR shares. The government's suspension of land auctions and sales of land through the application list system will lower the estimated land revenues (about $25 billion) this year. Meanwhile, Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung said in the Irish capital Dublin on Friday, the last day of his European tour, that the 3.3 per cent growth in gross domestic product for the third quarter was encouraging and pointed to a rebound in the economy.