My Take

Our highly paid legislators should take fewer holidays

Lawmakers are already in the top 5 per cent of income earners in Hong Kong and with at least three months of vacation time, the people’s business – deliberately or not – is put on the back burner

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 1:28am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 1:28am

As we approach the Legislative Council’s summer recess and the start of a new administration, it may be time to ask why lawmakers should get such long holidays.

When Leung Chun-ying first took office as chief executive, he shortened the summer leaves of Executive Council members from nine weeks to two. Whether the quality of decisions improved as a result is highly debatable. But if we are paying fat cats to sit on the cabinet, we should at least make them work.

As his successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, will take over in less than two weeks, the public should put pressure on Legco to do the same. It’s wishful thinking, of course. Nothing upsets those sloths and time-wasters in Legco more than telling them to take fewer days off. And while Lam has a long list of policy reforms on her plate, Legco reform is a bit beyond her power.

Nevertheless, if pan-democrats like to denounce income inequalities in Hong Kong, perhaps they should start with themselves. Taking away some of their excessive holidays would not only be fair, but also politically expedient.

As lawmakers head off for the holidays, Hong Kong badly needs a break from political one-upmanship

A Legco member gets HK$95,180 a month. The Legco president earns double that. They also get reimbursements of almost HK$2.4 million for office expenses per year, more than HK$200,000 for travel and entertainment, and up to HK$250,000 for information technology.

There are also medical subsidies and other perks. All that automatically puts them in the top 5 per cent of earners in Hong Kong.

Why should they get three months off every summer and autumn, on top of the usual holidays everyone else is entitled to?

More importantly for the government, fewer holidays for lawmakers makes stalling more difficult.

While we don’t think about them in this way, filibustering and other delaying tactics work partly because of the large number of off-days on the Legco calendar.

If Legco could schedule meetings from July to October, it would severely limit the scope of filibustering. At the very least, legislators who want to stall would have to work a lot harder as to be exhausting.

Instead of indiscriminately picking fights with the government, the opposition would have to choose only issues that are actually worth fighting over. This might help improve the quality of their opposition, or even their public standing.