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Chief executive’s policy address 2017

Bumper pay packets up for grabs at Carrie Lam’s new think tank as Hong Kong leader lures young talent

Recruitment drive for researchers part of transformation of Central Policy Unit to get more young voices ‘at senior levels of government’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 7:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 7:32am

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is offering handsome pay packets of up to HK$95,000 a month in a hiring drive for policy researchers as she reforms a government think tank with new young faces.

A three-week open recruitment exercise for the posts of senior policy and project coordination officer and policy and project coordination officer kicks off on Friday, signalling a step forward in the ongoing revamp of the Central Policy Unit.

The senior officer post offers a basic monthly salary of between HK$60,000 and HK$95,000, depending on qualifications and experience, while the pay for the officer post is between HK$30,000 and HK$48,000.

The jobs are being offered on non-civil-service contract terms for three years, according to a recruitment advert in the Post on Friday.

The officers will serve at the future Policy Innovation and Coordination Office, which is set to evolve out of the existing Central Policy Unit – a key initiative in Lam’s election manifesto earlier this year.

The new office, which will come under Lam’s Office of the Chief Executive, will be responsible for “policy research, innovation, coordination and joint review of creative projects by different sectors”, according to the manifesto.

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In her policy address earlier this month, Lam further announced that the government would hire “20 to 30 young people” to join the revamped unit so they “can gain experience in public administration and the voices of young people can be heard at senior levels of government”.

But she did not specify how young recruits would be.

A government source said: “It is not appropriate for the government to specify an age limit as a requirement in its recruitment exercise.”

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On the two new posts, the source said their rankings in the government hierarchy would be similar to a senior researcher and researcher at the Central Policy Unit. But a senior researcher is only paid about HK$49,400 to HK$65,900 a month, while the pay of a researcher is between HK$32,500 and HK$41,600.

Despite the bumper pay packets, the source said the government expected the cost of running the new office would be more or less the same as the present unit, for which the operating cost in the 2016-17 financial year was HK$102 million.

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“The staff size at the new office should be more or less the same as for the Central Policy Unit. Existing researchers, whose contracts will expire in the next few months, can also apply for the posts if they are interested. It is an open recruitment exercise,” the source said.

But the source declined to comment on the progress of the reforms or the function and role of the new office, only saying that the government hoped it would start operating as early as next April.

The application period for the posts closes on November 17. There will be a recruitment briefing on November 7.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a former head of the Central Policy Unit, expressed reservations about Lam’s reforms.

“Honestly, to this day, I still do not know the aim and essence of the reforms. First of all, is it really necessary to give the unit a new name?” Lau asked.

He said he feared the new label would create the impression that the high-level think tank was being downgraded.

“What I’m most concerned about is that not many people in the government conduct long-term strategic studies ... Now that Hong Kong is engaged more in the country’s strategic development, these studies have become more important,” said Lau, who is now a vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a Beijing-affiliated think tank.

“I’m not sure whether a revamped unit will continue to conduct these studies.”