SCMP Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Efficient service

Several hundred civil servants yesterday showed up at a rally to demand the Government shelve plans to further contract out the provision of public services so there would be no more redundancies.
Like anyone whose job is threatened, civil servants who face getting the sack are understandably anxious about a premature termination of their careers. Until a few years ago, virtually all civil servants could expect to serve until retirement.
But if our civil servants would put on their other hats as citizens and taxpayers, they might appreciate the merits of the Government doing more with less. There is no point in having highly paid civil servants doing work that can be more efficiently performed by the private sector. By contracting out, the Government is trying to enhance performance as well as reduce the need to raise taxes.
Hong Kong civil servants are well-paid by world standards, and there have been calls to cut their pay as private-sector salaries plummet during the economic downturn. But the chairman of the Standing Commission on Civil Servants' Salaries and Conditions of Service, Yeung Ka-sing, has warned against such cuts, which could create unrest among civil servants and their families.
Mr Yeung has a point. However, to prevent such cuts, civil servants also need to be sensible about public expectations and move in tune with the times.