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Hong Kong civil servants head to work at the government offices in Tamar on May 18. Photo: Nora Tam

LettersPerformance-based pay rises for Hong Kong civil servants will help end unfairness

  • Readers discuss possible reforms to how pay rises for civil servants are calculated and why the introduction of electric buses is not an unalloyed good
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The Executive Council’s recent decision on a 2.5 per cent pay increase for government employees has sparked views on two extremes. While the business sector and general public have praised the decision as fair, most civil servant unions voiced their anger. Such divided opinions might reflect a necessity for the new government to rationalise the existing pay adjustment mechanism to bridge the gap between public impression and the actual needs of public officers.

To start with, the date-back review of pay adjustment hinders the welfare of civil servants. The present pay rise mechanism collects salary data from the previous year. The government does not trace back to and adjust last year’s salary and pay back the difference. Rather, it fixes the next year’s salary instead.

Consequently, there is a persistent delay in pay adjustments and government employees are not able to enjoy the fruits of the economy in time. Take last year as an example. The city’s economy revived with 6.4 per cent growth as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic eased. In the same year, the public workforce led in many anti-epidemic relief measures to support community recovery.

Unfortunately, the date-back policy is easily influenced by the immediate economic context and political pressure. Because of the fifth wave of the pandemic in early 2022, the pay rise of civil servants was limited to 2.5 per cent instead of the band of 2 to 7 per cent that had been discussed. Public officers again miss out on being able to enjoy Hong Kong’s prosperity because of the date-back policy.

To mitigate the impact of this pre-existing problem, pay adjustment in the long run should be based on job performance rather than purely on previous year’s economic growth and inflation.


Take for example MTR’s practice of pay adjustment being determined by staff performance based on a five-tier grading system. Outstanding employees get the highest pay rise. Our government is the biggest shareholder of MTR, and it would be beneficial if the administration could apply MTR’s mechanism to its own practices.

Public officers will be motivated to work harder with this result-oriented approach to improving the bureaucracy. Meanwhile, the government will face less political pressure while gaining more recognition from both the workforce and general public because of the policy’s fairness and transparency.

Alison Ng, Olympic

Electric buses are no silver bullet

I read with interest your report that KMB is to seek funding from the government to purchase electric buses (“Climate change: Hong Kong bus operator KMB seeks government support to power rapid conversion of fleet to electric vehicles”, July 3).

While not being an expert, I have some issues regarding the wholesale purchase of these vehicles. You report that electric buses cost 30 to 40 per cent more than diesel buses. Who will foot the extra cost? Surely it will either be through higher fares or, if a subsidy is granted, the taxpayers.


Hong Kong’s first electric double-decker bus approved for trial run

Hong Kong’s first electric double-decker bus approved for trial run

Second, while the cost of diesel has risen dramatically, there is no guarantee that the cost of the materials for batteries, such as lithium, will not also rise dramatically as these are scarce resources.

Third, the environmental benefits of electric vehicles are questionable. The sourcing of raw materials has an impact on the environment in the local communities where these materials are mined. The batteries have a limited life even after possible recycling, so what happens to them after they expire? Are they disposed of in a landfill?

Your report mentions that hydrogen-powered buses are in operation on the mainland and, I believe, in London as well. However, it states that hydrogen is not an option in Hong Kong as the government lists liquid hydrogen as a dangerous good. The thought of a vehicle fire in one of our tunnels fills one with horror.

Nonetheless, I wonder if the government could examine the feasibility of hydrogen-powered vehicles given recent technological advances. I have to say that I am not optimistic given the slow pace at which the government makes decisions in these matters.

Eric Edwin Taylor, Sai Kung