Press Releases

Transcript of SCMA's remarks at media session

     Following is the transcript of remarks made by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, at a media session at noon today (December 12) on the remuneration package for Politically Appointed Officials (PAOs) serving in fifth-term Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government:
Reporter: Mr Tam, could you briefly explain the committee's suggestions? What are the rationales behind that?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: Put it simply, the Independent Commission (Independent Commission on Remuneration for Members of the Executive Council and the Legislature, and Officials under the Political Appointment System of the HKSAR) has put forward a report with certain recommendations, and those recommendations have been endorsed by the Executive Council. We are submitting the relevant proposals to the Legislative Council for discussion at the Constitutional Affairs Panel next Monday, with a view to submitting the formal proposals to the Finance Committee in January next year.
     The main proposals are on two areas. There should be an adjustment mechanism (which is in line with) the movement of the Consumer Price Index (C). This is the first recommendation. At the same time, the Independent Commission considers that the purchasing power (of a Director of Bureau (DoB)'s cash remuneration) has been greatly eroded since 2002 because the salary levels of Politically Appointed Officials have not been adjusted for the last 14 years. Therefore, the Independent Commission feels it necessary to at least adjust upwards the salary levels in accordance with the aggregate movement of CPI(C) for the past four or five years.
     At the same time, although it is not the main review area for the Independent Commission, the Commission also puts forward a recommendation that for future appointments of Political Assistants, there should not be a unified salary level but to have certain flexibility to allow PAOs to appoint Political Assistants with different salary levels in accordance with the job requirements as well as their personal experience and background, with the upper limit being set at the minimum entry level of Political Assistant at the moment. The other benefits will not be adjusted in accordance with the Commission's report.
Reporter: It was said John Tsang has resigned ....
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: As I mentioned yesterday, I am not in a position to comment on any aspiring candidate for two reasons. First of all, my guesstimate is that there might be more aspiring candidates to come forward to publicly announce their intention. So, it won't be fair for me to comment on any individual candidates at this stage. But more importantly, I am responsible for holding the CE (Chief Executive) Election in March next year. So, it would not be fair for me, having this capacity and responsibility, to comment on individuals.
Reporter: But as a colleague, what do you think of him as a colleague?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: As a Principal Official, I actually don't have any comment to offer as a colleague.
Reporter: How you justify, how do you explain this to the public ...?
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I think the Independent Commission's proposal is reasonable and is quite self-restrained, simply because the very principal recommendation is to include an adjustment mechanism indexing on the movement of the Consumer Price Index (C) which is also used by the Legislative Councillors. Also, this would be beneficial for the healthy development of the Political Appointment System because over the next 10 years, or 10 to 15 years, the salary level of PAOs, if remained the same, is tantamount to further erosion of their purchasing power. Comparing with senior civil servants, comparing with senior management of public organisations, and not to mention private organisations, the competitive edge of the total package for joining the Government would be getting lower and lower. To attract the right kind of talents to join the Government would be increasingly difficult if this level would remain the same for the next, say, 10 or 20 years. It is time to include an adjustment mechanism that is objective, transparent and moderate. I think this is a fair recommendation. Also. the Independent Commission feels it necessary to suggest the Government to seek approval from the Finance Committee to restore the purchasing power (of a DoB's cash remuneration) for the past four years. The number suggested, i.e. 12.4 per cent, is actually the aggregate number of CPI(C) movement. On a yearly average, this is only 2 to 3 per cent. It is very moderate. I hope both the Legislative Council as well as the general public would agree that this is a very moderate and reasonable proposal and it would get LegCo's endorsement. I hope that once this is endorsed, it would help attract the various kinds of political talents to join the Government.
     I would end with a personal note. It is increasingly difficult to get people to join the Government and to become a Principal Official given the prevailing political circumstances. I think it is only fair to reward those aspiring people that have the heart to serve the community. That is a token of recognition to their contribution to the society. Thank you very much.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)