Sir Hamish to step down

THE Financial Secretary, Sir Hamish Macleod, is expected to present his farewell Budget next spring.

The Governor, Chris Patten, is understood to have agreed with Sir Hamish that the appointment of Hong Kong's first local Financial Secretary will be announced in 1995.

Sir Hamish said yesterday that his successor would be in place ''well before 1997'' but would not be more specific.

He said last month's Budget was ''not a valedictory speech'' but declined to repeat the remark he made last spring when he said he looked forward to presenting ''many more budgets''.

Government House spokesman Mike Hanson confirmed an announcement will be made next year.

''The Governor has said the name of Sir Hamish's successor will be announced during 1995,'' he said.

Barring unforeseen hiccups, Sir Hamish's post is expected to be localised in time for the new Financial Secretary to plan, and present, the 1996 Budget.

A high-level secretariat source said this pointed to a mid-1995 departure, since serious pre-Budget planning begins in the autumn.

But he stressed Sir Hamish may still be asked to stay on to see the 1996 Budget through if more time is needed to groom his successor.

Secretary for the Treasury Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is widely seen as the front runner to be Hong Kong's first local Financial Secretary, although a final decision will not be made for some time.

Sir Hamish, Financial Secretary since August 1991, has spent nearly three decades working in the Hong Kong Government, mostly in trade and finance-related portfolios.

It is not yet known if he will be compensated for his early departure from the special government fund set up for expatriates who leave to make way for locals.

Sir Hamish, 54, will step down well before the normal minimum retirement age of 57 for expatriate civil servants as part of an intensified effort to fill all senior government posts with local officers.

The process begins in September, with the retirement of Secretary for Health and Welfare Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien who, although an ethnic Chinese, is employed on overseas terms.

The Government has already drawn up a short list of potential successors, understood to include Director of Education Dominic Wong Shing-wah and Commissioner for Labour Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching.

Under the Basic Law, all principal official posts in the post-1997 civil service must be filled by Chinese nationals with no right of abode overseas.

Beijing last week ruled out discussing who should fill these posts with Britain, but the Government nonetheless remains committed to putting local officers into them well before 1997.

Other principal official posts which still remain to be localised include those of Attorney-General Jeremy Mathews, Secretary for Security Alistair Asprey, Secretary for Works James Blake, Secretary for Planning, Environment and Lands Tony Eason, and Secretary for Financial Services Michael Cartland.

In addition, although Secretary for Transport Haider Barma is a local officer, he may have to make way for an ethnic Chinese appointee.