Hong Kong says it's not copying Singapore by having top officials donate salaries to charity amid coronavirus outbreak

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan delivers the annual budget at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, on Feb 26, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Paul Chan has said that the government was not copying Singapore when it announced that top officials would donate a month's salary to charity during the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Chan said on Saturday (Feb 29) that the decision was made because of the tough economic situation and to show solidarity with residents, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Hong Kong announced the decision on Friday night, hours after Singapore said its President and Cabinet ministers will take a one-month pay cut.

"It's a coincidence," the newspaper quoted Mr Chan as saying on a radio programme. "Tiding over the hard times with residents was always our intention ... As everyone has been discussing (this) recently, we reached a decision on it."

Lawmaker Regina Ip had earlier criticised the Hong Kong government for copying Singapore and giving the public a bad impression, the SCMP reported.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament on Friday that the President, all Cabinet ministers - including the Prime Minister - and political office-holders will take a one-month pay cut in solidarity with Singaporeans coping with the coronavirus outbreak. All MPs will take a one-month cut in their allowance, while some senior public service officers will take a half-month pay cut.

Public officers manning the front line will get up to one extra month of special bonus, he added. The front-line workers will include many healthcare officers in restructured hospitals and the Health Ministry, as well as some officers in other front-line agencies who have been directly involved in fighting the Covid-19 disease.

When asked why Hong Kong officials did not go for a standard pay cut, Mr Chan said: "Reducing salaries is of course meaningful to help the treasury save money."

"But at the same time, everyone feels there are many people who are in need in society. So how about we donate the salaries to charity?" the SCMP quoted him as saying.

He said pay cuts would not necessarily be more effective in delivering the message of support for the people. "When colleagues donate their one month's pay, it also means their annual salary has been reduced. So it's just a different format."

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