Gov’t will consider civil servant pay raise remarks

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–Premier Wu Den-yih yesterday clarified previous remarks that had been taken to mean that civil servants would not stand a chance of a salary raise during his term. He stressed that if government finances improve early 2011, with significant growth for the fourth quarter of last year, his administration will of course consider a raise for civil servants. The premier said reporters had asked him two “simple” questions during the Cabinet’s “weiya,” or year-end feast, but his answers had been “over-interpreted.”

He said he was first asked whether civil servants would be given a raise now, to which he replied “it is difficult to do so at this time.” But Wu said that he then went on explain that it is difficult at this time of year when the government is still assessing the economic growth of the fourth quarter of 2010 and collecting data about private enterprises’ bonuses for employees. The government will also have to see whether tax incomes for “early next year” are matching expectations, Wu said. If things go well, the government will conduct an assessment “early next year” on the possibility of a raise for civil servants.

The meaning of “early next year” is ambiguous, which could refer to 2012 or the Lunar New Year coming in less than two weeks. Wu explained yesterday that he was speaking with the coming Chinese New Year in mind, but his remarks were truncated in the media reports. The ambiguity added confusion to the time frame for the next question that he faced Friday. When asked whether there would be a raise “next year,” Wu replied that it would be the next premier’s call. The sensitive remarks were taken to mean that there would be no hope of any raise for civil servants any time soon as long as he is premier. But Wu claimed that it was not what he meant. He said that as he was at a “weiya,” he had the feeling that the reporters were referring to “next year’s weiya.” He said that he thought there was still a long time until the next “weiya” and he was not certain he would still be premier by then. The premier said that if he had been asked whether a salary raise was possible after Chinese New Year this year, he would have given a different answer. President Ma Ying-jeou earlier this month said the government was seriously considering a raise for civil servants this year. But the Central Personnel Administration said yesterday it has not received any instructions about such a plan, according to the United Evening News.