CY governing style: Reward mediocre but loyal staff

July 22, 2015 17:30
After Lau Kong-wah lost in the 2012 Legco election, he was mocked by netizens in "jobless, what to do?" posters. Photos: internet

Every cabinet reshuffle has its own surprises, but few are more astonishing than the appointment of Lau Kong-wah to replace long-time Beijing loyalist Tsang Tak-sing as home affairs minister.

Lau has had a spotty record since he joined the government two years ago after losing in the 2012 Legislative Council election.

But to his credit, his low-key approach has proven more successful than the management style of unpopular ministers such as education chief Eddie Ng and development head Paul Chan.  

Despite his mediocrity, Lau is being rewarded with a hefty pay rise by Leung Chun-ying.

As new home affairs chief, Lau will get a monthly salary of HK$298,000 (US$38,450), more than 60 percent up on his current pay as undersecretary for constitutional and mainland affairs.

Very few people get that kind of boost in their pay package but it gets even more interesting when you consider that Lau was drawing HK$80,000 a month as a legislator.

You could say that Lau's 1991 decision to bolt the pan-democratic camp for the pro Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong paid off.

In hindsight, even his Legco defeat which was wildly celebrated by netizens, looks like a small bump in the road, much like it did for Andrew Fung who became Leung's information co-ordinator after he forsook the pan-democrats.

While we're at it, we should also mention Duncan Pescod who was named chief executive of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority on Tuesday.

Whether or not he deserves his bumped-up package -- his predecessor, Michael Lynch, reportedly made HK$6 million a year including gratuity -- is anyone's guess.

But Democratic Party chief Emily Lau doubts Pescod is the right man for the job.

During a Legco question-and-answer session, Lau forcefully pointed out that Chief Secretary Carrie Lam who chairs the authority, had described Pescod as “interested”, not “experienced”, in culture and the arts.

Lau said this deviated from the basic requirement of the job in a global talent search.

Regardless, Pescod has three years to prove his worth. If he is getting less than his predecessor, he could put it down to a "cultural" or "artistic" discount.

Pescod's new role is merely a continuation of his three decades in government service during which he served as housing secretary and most recently as chief operating officer of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority.

Interestingly, his appointment was announced on the same day in the presence of the full board.

Lau only got to say something about his new job the next day.

Meanwhile, Tsang responded to reports he had been sacked, saying he is happy to retire.

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Critics have been quick to deride Lau Kong-wah's appointment as home affairs chief. Here, he is shown in a meeting between government officials and student leaders during the democracy protests last year. Photos: HKEJ, internet

EJ Insight writer