A substantial pay rise is expected to boost morale among Macau police officers, who have been hit by recent scandals that cast doubt over their performance. But critics say a fair promotion system is also needed to lift morale in the force and shore up public confidence in officers. A 33 per cent increase in officers' starting salary, proposed by the Executive Council, looks set to be passed by the legislature early next year, with the proposed rise backdated to July this year. 'Better pay and benefits are urgently needed to improve the rock-bottom morale among frontline police officers,' lawmaker Jose Coutinho, head of the Macau Civil Servants Association, said. Security Police chief Lei Siu-peng said the pay rise would help to attract new blood to the force when a labour shortage had occurred in various sectors in Macau. 'The casinos are offering fat pay packets, making it difficult for us to hire young people nowadays,' he said. But he denied that police morale had been low. The proposed pay increase would take a starting officer's salary to about 15,000 patacas a month, bringing it close to the rate earned by card dealers in casinos. Distrust of the force has grown following recent revelations of loan-sharking, theft and gambling in the ranks. Two loan-sharking networks were uncovered in the force this month and in July, in which officers had extended credit to more than 30 colleagues who borrowed money for gambling. TV images of riot police confronting mainland visitors last month did nothing for public confidence in the force, which came under fire for deploying heavily armed officers to handle a group of travellers angry with their tour guides. Some of these problems stemmed from favouritism in the force, which was seeking reform, Mr Coutinho said. 'There needs to be a fair and transparent system for ranking and promotion,' he said. The Executive Council is proposing changes to the force's ranking system, aiming to set up clearer and stricter criteria for promotion. The inadequacy of police officers' benefits had also affected the motivation of frontline officers, after two key pension funds were scrapped this year, Mr Coutinho said. The authorities abolished a fund allowing an officer's widow or widower to claim a monthly sum equivalent to 50 per cent of the officer's salary. A fund giving retired officers who had served for 30 years a monthly benefit equivalent to their salaries at retirement was also abolished.