Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, had a pay rise of 7.96 per cent last year, taking home HK$10.33 million, his biggest pay cheque ever. More precisely, his fixed pay rose 5.58 per cent to HK$7.18 million, while his performance-linked variable pay increased 7.49 per cent to HK$2.74 million, the authority's annual report revealed. In percentage terms, his overall remuneration increment was higher than the average of 4.8 per cent for HKMA staff last year. His pay cheque was much fatter than that of fellow central bankers in western economies, including the United States, the European Union, Britain and Germany. By contrast, US Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke, who has the onerous task of controlling money supply in the world's largest economy, was paid only US$191,300, the lowest among seven central bankers named in a newspaper survey last month. In Hong Kong, Mr Yam is only the second highest paid regulator, after Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Paul Chow Man-yiu, who earned HK$14.13 million in salary plus bonus last year, up 27 per cent from 2006. Assuming that Mr Yam would have a 5.85 per cent increment in the fixed portion of his pay, he would earn at least HK$420,000 more this year. The variable portion, of course, will depend largely on market conditions, given his role as the government's fund manager of sorts. The average pay packages of the authority's four deputy chief executives and 11 executive directors last year totalled HK$6.43 million and HK$3.97 million, respectively. The pay packages for Mr Yam and other HKMA staff are determined by a subcommittee of the Exchange Fund Advisory Committee, whose members include prominent businessmen, bankers, government representatives, and Mr Yam himself. Meanwhile, the de facto central bank budgeted a rise of 11.53 per cent in staff costs to HK$638 million for the year, making up 80 per cent of the total administrative expenditure budget of HK$797 million. The increase in staff costs will cover the average 5.85 per cent pay rise announced earlier and the 16 new posts that will be created. The HKMA counted a staff of 603 in January, still 35 short of the budget head count of 638 for this year. Separately, Mr Yam said yesterday at a public function that banks could help Hong Kong residents open yuan deposit accounts on the mainland as long as they complied with rules and regulatory guidelines on both sides of the border. He also said he was satisfied with the provisions local lenders made for their subprime-related exposure.