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LCQ17: Enhancing benefits and allowances for politically appointed officials
     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Chan Kwok-ki, in the Legislative Council today (November 16):

     In order to recruit high calibre talents to serve as Judges and Judicial Officers (JJOs), the Government significantly enhanced their benefits and terms of employment in 2017, including providing them with a Medical Insurance Allowance, which is an accountable and a taxable allowance, with a ceiling amount of $53,690 per person per year. There are views that as politically appointed officials are the pillars of the governance of Hong Kong, importance should be attached to their benefits and terms of employment. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the up-to-date number of JJOs receiving the aforesaid allowance and the expenditure involved each year;
(2) as the Government has indicated that the adjustment mechanism for the allowance for JJOs should be reviewed five years after its implementation, whether a review has been conducted as scheduled; if so, of the outcome; and
(3) as there are views that medical insurance allowances currently provided by enterprises to their middle and senior administrative and management staff are very comprehensive, whether the Government will, in order to attract industry leaders to join the political accountability team, consider enhancing the benefits and allowances for politically appointed officials, especially by bringing the medical insurance allowance arrangements applicable to them into line with those applicable to JJOs?

     Having consulted the Judiciary and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, my reply to Hon Mrs Regina Ip’s question is as follows:
(1) The Judiciary has been providing Judges and Judicial Officers (JJOs) (and their eligible dependents (Note 1)) with the Medical Insurance Allowance (MIA), which is an accountable and taxable allowance, as a supplement to the existing provision of medical and dental benefits provided by the Department of Health and the Hospital Authority, since April 1, 2017. All JJOs (and their eligible dependents) can select from the market any pure medical insurance plan (Note 2) which meets their specific needs, and the premium incurred will be reimbursable subject to the MIA ceiling rates they are entitled to.
     The total number of JJOs (and their eligible dependents) receiving MIA and the total expenditure in each financial year from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2022, are tabulated below:
Financial Year Total Number of Recipients Total Expenditure
JJOs Eligible Dependents
2017/18 62 80 2.01
2018/19 90 120 4.73
2019/20 100 131 5.52
2020/21 108 144 6.41
2021/22 100 134 6.14

(2) Pursuant to the existing adjustment mechanism, the ceiling rates of MIA are adjusted annually on April 1 with reference to the change in the Composite Consumer Price Index over the past 12 months ending December 31. The MIA ceiling rates with effect from April 1, 2022, are tabulated below:
Age Annual MIA Ceiling Rate
(per person, dollars)
Age 60 and above 58,487
Age 55 to below 60 48,149
Age 50 to below 55 40,089
Age 45 to below 50 33,749
Age below 45 24,990
Dependent children 21,025
     The adjustment mechanism should be reviewed after the MIA has been implemented for five years. The review to the adjustment mechanism is underway and is expected to complete in the first quarter of 2023.
(3) For politically-appointed officials (PAOs), the Independent Commission on Remuneration for Members of the Executive Council and the Legislature, and Officials under the Political Appointment System of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (the Independent Commission) advises the Government on, inter alia, their remuneration package. The Independent Commission is required, by its terms of reference, to carry out periodic review of the remuneration package for officials under the Political Appointment System, normally once every five years and about a year before the start of a new term of the Government. The Independent Commission has completed a review of the remuneration package for PAOs serving in the sixth-term Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Chief Executive in Council accepted the recommendations of the Independent Commission in May 2022.
     The Independent Commission considers that the annual adjustment mechanism for the cash remuneration for Directors of Bureau (Note 3) as approved by the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council in 2017 and the other non-cash benefits of the remuneration package should be maintained. However, improvements should be made to the annual leave arrangements. As regards medical benefits, the Independent Commission considers that the level of medical and dental benefits that different layers of PAOs should be entitled to would require careful examination and justifications. Hence, it has indicated that it will carry out an in-depth study on the medical and dental benefits of PAOs and conduct a review before its current term of appointment ends on March 31, 2025, whilst the arrangement for PAOs to enjoy medical and dental benefits on the same basis as those provided to civil servants during the term of their employment remains as it is for the time being. 
Note 1: Eligible dependents refer to the spouse and unmarried children (including children of divorced/legally separated officers, stepchildren, adopted children and illegitimate children) who are (i) under the age of 19, or (ii) aged 19 or over but under 21 and are in full-time education or in full-time vocational training, or dependent on the officers as a result of physical or mental infirmity.
Note 2: Pure medical insurance plans refer to medical insurance plans without any non-medical elements such as life protection, savings, investment linkage or hospital cash benefits.
Note 3: The cash remuneration for Directors of Bureau is the benchmark for determining the levels of cash remuneration for other PAOs.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2022
Issued at HKT 19:45
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