My Take

Hong Kong government’s PR machine: no value for a lot of money

Millions of taxpayer cash is being spent on spin and polling and pay for people to promote the administration, and yet the chief executive’s popularity continues to fall

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 April, 2016, 2:19am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 April, 2016, 2:19am

Overseas, it’s bankers’ pay that drives people mad. In Hong Kong, it ought to be government officials’.

I leave aside the policy bureau secretaries, who make north of HK$300,000 a month. But at least they can claim the departments under them actually do some real work, for better or worse.

It’s the pay for PR people who supposedly spin for the administration of Leung Chun-ying that makes my jaw drop. According to Legislative Council filings this week, Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, Information Coordinator for the Office of the Chief Executive, will earn more than HK$3.8 million this year, including an end-of-contract gratuity. Since his boss’ popularity plummeted during the two years Fung took up his post, is the gratuity deserved? Meanwhile, Edward Yau Tang-wah, director of the Chief Executive’s Office, will make about HK$3.6 million.

Hmm, what exactly is the difference between the two jobs? Can the work of these two justify HK$7.43 million a year of taxpayer money? I am only asking rhetorically. Equally interesting is the take-home pay of Shiu Sin-por, the head of the Central Policy Unit. He gets about HK$310,000 a month, equivalent to each of the government’s 13 policy bureau chiefs. That’s for being the government’s research and survey guy. Actually, it’s not clear how much research and surveys he and his staff actually do, seeing as how he pays big bucks to pals at friendly institutes to do research for them.

The CPU granted HK$811,440 to the One Country Two Systems Research Institute for a “study on current affairs and topical issues” in the past year. The spending will continue on the same subject in the coming year. Shiu and Leung are former heads of the institute. The institute is currently headed by Executive Council member Cheung Chi-kong.

The CPU also handed a research grant worth HK$300,000 to the China Institute of International Studies under the Foreign Ministry. Just a thought: how about a fresh pair of eyes from neutral researchers with an outsider’s perspective?

The unit spent HK$4.32 million on 43 public opinion polls last year and HK$7.35 million on 75 polls in the year before that. In the coming year, it will budget another HK$7 million for more polls ahead of the chief executive election. They will no doubt learn that Leung is very unpopular.