The controversy over the salaries of new political appointees has been blown out of proportion, according to new Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce chairman Andrew Brandler.
The most important issue, he says, should be what the new cadres actually do. "I think the reason why the government was put in a vulnerable position was because the role of the new appointees is undefined - I do not know what their jobs are," Brandler said.
He added that his salary as chief executive at CLP Power - as well as those of other senior executives - is no secret.
As democrats continue to push the government to come clean on exactly how they selected the new appointees and the factors determining their pay, Brandler said the government should have been transparent from the outset. He acknowledged that it is difficult to foster political talent in Hong Kong and said the introduction of the new tier of political appointees may be a way out.
Some of the appointees have come under fire for pay levels of at least HK$134,150, the equivalent of a directorate grade three government official despite their lack of political experience. The undersecretaries get up to HK$$223,585.
"In other jurisdictions, political parties play an important role. But in Hong Kong, once you become a political appointee, you have to resign from key positions in your political party," Brandler said.
Undersecretary for Commerce and Economic Development Greg So Kam- leung has resigned as vice chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Among the 17 appointees, only four are from the pro- Beijing DAB and the Liberal Party.
Meanwhile, despite inflationary pressure, Brandler believes the Hong Kong business environment is competitive.
"But there are also risks that the competitiveness could be eroded," he said, citing as example the need to effectively implement the fair competition legislation and minimum wage.
He is worried that even if salaries are increased, unemployment may also rise as employers may not be able to afford to hire the same number of staff.
Instead of introducing a minimum wage Brandler suggested the administration provide low-income workers with a Comprehensive Social Security Scheme subsidy.