To seek greener pastures is human. In Hong Kong, it is normal for employees to constantly shop around for better jobs. Loyalty and lifelong commitment, be it to the government or a company, are now rare. So it came as no surprise when a high-flier in the government left last week to join the Hong Kong Productivity Council as executive director. Wilson Fung Wing-yip, who left his post on Friday after being deputy secretary for home affairs for just a month, had been seen as a potential candidate for permanent secretary. He was also one of a handful of middle-ranking administrative officers seen to have the qualities of a deputy minister. In a consultation paper published in July, the government proposed adding another tier of political appointees, comprising deputy ministers and ministers' assistants, to give greater support to principal officials. The resignation of Mr Fung followed the departure of two senior-ranking administrative officers this year. Rebecca Lai Ko Wing-yee, formerly permanent secretary for the civil service, reportedly quit to study theology. Alex Fong Chi-wai, formerly head of the trade office in Tokyo, took up the job of executive director of the General Chamber of Commerce. Increasingly, the departure of senior administrative officers is seen as a normal feature of our job market. That this is seen as normal represents, however, a marked change in the public's perception of senior officers, who have been described as the cream of the 160,000-strong civil service. Senior administrative officers who have become household names, such as Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, moved from junior posts to the apex of power and played a vital role in the city's governance. The job of an administrative officer has carried with it a sense of pride, purpose and lifelong commitment in a city known for its efficient, high-quality civil service. In the past, the early departure of senior officers in the prime of their career was seen as the exception rather than the rule. Now it may not sound cynical to suggest they are no different from other professionals, and that their values and sense of commitment are gone. Admittedly, an air of uncertainty has prevailed among the 500-odd senior officers amid profound change in the social and political landscape. The role of senior administrative officers in the governance system became blurred following the introduction of the ministerial system in 2002. Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa picked a handful of members of the elite to become ministers with responsibility over their respective policy areas. So the power and role of senior administrative officers in policy formulation has been considerably undercut. Meanwhile, the posts of permanent secretaries in charge of various policies are being taken up by senior administrative officers. Yet, despite the delineation of political and administrative responsibilities, permanent secretaries and their deputies are still required to undertake political work such as attending Legislative Council meetings. As public policies are increasingly determined by political considerations in the top echelon, the long-standing process of policy formulation - involving a key role for senior administrative officers - has been thrown into disarray. Some middle-ranking administrative officers have expressed fears about low morale in the administrative officer corps and about the loss of its' members sense of commitment and purpose. There is no denying that the days of senior administrative officers 'ruling Hong Kong' are history, as public demand for accountability and a greater role for elected politicians grows. But marginalising them is likely to undermine the quality of policy formulation before too long.