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Civil servants enter the government’s headquarters in Admiralty on May 22. Photo: Nora Tam

LettersHong Kong’s entire civil service, not just the pay adjustment system, needs an overhaul

  • Readers discuss the debate over the civil servant pay rise, the factors underlying mass shootings, and the downside of the cryptocurrency boom
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The heated debate on recent civil service pay trend survey result, which was criticised by various parties as being out of touch and recommending an unreasonably high pay rise, and the ensuing Executive Council decision to approve a 2.5 per cent increase in pay for all government workers, irrespective of rank, signify the need to go beyond an ordinary review of the civil service pay adjustment mechanism.
To echo the views of another reader (“There is a reason employers object to the civil service pay rise”, June 5), people by and large act out of self-interest.

It is also worth noting that criticism of the civil service on social media, disparaging their work capabilities and undermining the value of public service, has been on the rise. Such public discontent has been caused and fuelled by deep-rooted social conflict, declining government legitimacy, a stagnant economy and the impact of the pandemic, among other factors in recent years.

Improving the relationship between the government and the public will take a great deal of effort and determination.

The start of the new administration’s term might be an opportune time to initiate a study on the long-awaited civil service overhaul. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu pledged to reform civil service work culture before he took office earlier this month.
The “ four hopes for Hong Kong” laid down by President Xi Jinping further empower the new administration to have the courage to take bold action to improve governance, including putting forward a plan to reform the civil service.

Having said this, it would not be fair to compare civil servants to their counterparts in the private sector. Public service has unique features which should not simply be quantified into the key performance indicators adopted by the market.

There are, at present, scattered measures in this regard across different government departments. One that many people are aware of are the performance pledges on service delivery.

Among other considerations, civil service reform should, in particular, address inflexible staff deployment, unevenly distributed resources and the inadequate performance appraisal system.

Hopefully a reformed civil service, if it succeeds, will contribute to building a prosperous and harmonious society we can all cherish.

Tom Tsoi, Tuen Mun

Mass shootings are not exclusive to the US

Just weeks after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, there have been multiple lone-wolf mass shootings in the United States, including in Oklahoma and Illinois. According to an advocacy group, in this year alone, the US has already suffered more than 300 mass shootings.

The international media treats these shootings as a uniquely American problem. To a certain extent it is, considering that guns are easily accessible in the country, which creates the means for people to conduct attacks.

Nonetheless, the phenomenon of “lone wolves” attempting to cause mass deaths in a public setting before committing suicide is prevalent in other countries, including in China. Although guns are difficult to obtain in the country, the assailants resort to knives and other weapons. Since 2010, there has been a string of attacks in schools and kindergartens.

It’s important to note that some lone-wolf attackers plan to commit suicide and exhibited signs of mental illness. The growing number of mass attacks overlaps with the growth of depression in modern societies.

Some experts point to deep social changes caused by economic and technological transformation as being a probable cause. In the case of China, for example, the vast economic and social changes in the last four decades created greater social inequality and stress.

Mass shooting could be seen as the most extreme example of the pandemic of depression and isolation of people in modern societies. To curb these attacks, we must improve mental well-being in an ever-changing world.

Roberto Santos, Belas, Portugal

Why cryptocurrencies are more curse than blessing

The emergence in 2009 of bitcoin, now the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, has ushered in a brave new world that I believe is more a curse than a blessing.

First, the use of cryptocurrencies will have wider social costs, including a detrimental environmental impact. According to Digiconomist, a platform focused on highlighting the unintended consequences of digital trends, bitcoins produce a total of 72.92 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, comparable to the annual carbon footprint of Turkmenistan. This is because cryptocurrency mining uses a proof of work process that requires a lot of computing power.

Secondly, cryptocurrency markets are very volatile. Take bitcoin, for example. Since reaching a record high price of over US$69,000 in November last year, it has shed about 70 per cent of its value.

Some may argue that development of cryptocurrencies creates job opportunities, but I believe that this could backfire, in particular when cryptocurrency companies are suddenly forced to lay off staff in the face of a recession.

Not only do cryptocurrencies exact a terrible environmental cost, but they can also disrupt the normal operation of the economy due to their price volatility.

Gordon Ng, Tseung Kwan O