The Hong Kong Philharmonic has refused to disclose the salary of its chief conductor, Edo de Waart, after sources close to the orchestra claimed he was paid at least HK$8 million a year. The sum would make the Dutch maestro the second-highest-paid public figure in Hong Kong after Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, chief executive of the Monetary Authority, but would mean he is paid barely half what top conductors in the United States earn. In contrast, Yip Wing-sie, musical director of the city's second professional orchestra, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, earns HK$600,000-plus. The Philharmonic received HK$58.8 million in public funding this financial year - more than half its annual budget of HK$109 million. De Waart, who is internationally renowned as an orchestra-builder, was recruited by the Philharmonic in 2004 with a mandate to turn it around. His five-year contract requires him to work with the orchestra for 14 weeks a year. He is also chief conductor of the Santa Fe Opera in the US state of New Mexico. Lorin Maazel, the septuagenarian music director of the New York Philharmonic, was paid US$1.9 million (HK$14.9 million) in 2005, according to New York Magazine's most recent salary guide. The Philharmonic is one of five major government-subsidised arts bodies that refused to disclose the salaries of their top executives for a South China Morning Post survey. Its chief executive, Timothy Calnin, said the orchestra's public funding covered the cost of musicians' and administrators' salaries, while the fees of guest artists and the chief conductor were effectively paid for through ticket sales. He said: 'It is the strength of the artistic programme, its quality and attractiveness and the saleability of the artists that earn that money for us. Artists' remuneration packages [is] regarded as confidential information in the international circuit. It boils down to an artist's right to privacy.' The orchestra reported fully to the Home Affairs Department every year in accordance with the terms of its funding, and published full financial figures in its annual report, he said. Mr Calnin said asking senior public figures to reveal their salaries distracted attention from the real issue of whether arts organisations delivered value to the community. But Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, legislator for the sports, performing arts, culture and publications sectors, said: 'I believe the HKPO should disclose Edo de Waart's salary. Let the public judge whether he is good value because they use public money.' De Waart could not be reached for comment.