Editorial Why Shy Away From a Worthy Cause?

WITH HIGH MANAGEMENT FEES and poor returns, Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) schemes have proved to be a gold mine for fund managers and trustees. Employees, on the other hand, can do nothing but watch their hard-earned retirement money being eaten away. The MPF system as it stands today is one of the deep-seated causes of Hong Kong’s social conflicts. Quite a number of people have therefore come up with proposals designed to make the system truly serve the retirement needs of the public.

The problem of high management fees has recently prompted lawmakers to call on the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) to assume the role of a public trustee and launch low-fee MPF products so that employees may have more choices. However, HKMA Chief Executive Norman Chan Tak-lam has turned down this proposal outright. We cannot agree with his dismissal of the issue. Nor can we agree with the reasons he has cited.

For one thing, it is general knowledge that senior executives of the HKMA are very generously paid. According to the HKMA Annual Report 2011, each of the 12 Executive Directors received last year a fixed pay of HK$3.28 million, a variable pay of HK$700,000, and sundry allowances that amounted to HK$370,000, which added up to HK$4.36 million, comparing very favourably with US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s annual remuneration of US$199,700 (HK$1.55 million). And the HKMA Chief Executive as well as the three Deputy Chief Executives was paid even more fabulously.

While the general public may not begrudge these senior executives’ huge remuneration packages, we must point out that many employees, working hard and living frugally, will not be able to meet their retirement needs because of an MPF system that has gone wrong. The HKMA, with its professional expertise, should be able to help in this respect. Norman Chan must not, for fear of anything untoward happening, refuse to take on more responsibility for the good of the public.

Chan declared that “the role of a public trustee in the MPF system does not agree with the statutory functions of the HKMA”. This argument is untenable. The HKMA was not established by statute, but by the Financial Secretary, by virtue of the powers vested in him by the Exchange Fund Ordinance. The HKMA Chief Executive therefore reports directly to the Financial Secretary. If the Financial Secretary tells him to get involved in the MPF business, the HKMA will have to take on this new function.

Now, according to its website and annual report, the HKMA has four principal functions, namely maintaining currency stability, promoting the stability and integrity of the financial system, helping to maintain Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre, and managing the Exchange Fund. But in addition to these the HKMA has at least one more important function, which is to manage the government’s fiscal reserves and placements received from government funds and statutory bodies.

If the HKMA can help the government manage its money and achieve reasonable returns, why can’t it help the public manage MPF schemes? We cannot see any discrepancy between the HKMA’s “statutory functions” and its assumption of the role of an MPF provider, as urged by some lawmakers. The HKMA is directed by the government. In view of the great unpopularity of the present MPF system, the government should direct the HKMA to play a part in the system so that changes for the better may be effected.

明報社評 2012.11.22﹕利民德政,金管局緣何不為?

強積金管理費高昂、回報率低,養肥了一班基金經理和受託人,打工仔的血汗錢被蠶食得退休養老夢碎。強積金現?之可惡,已經成為整體深層次矛盾的組成部分,不少人獻計獻策,希望恢復強積金的養老功能。

近日,有議員提出金管局擔任強積金公共委託人,推出低收費的強積金產品,給打工仔更多選擇,目的也是應對管理費過高的問題。就此,金管局總裁陳德霖一口拒絕。他的取態和藉口,都值得討論。

首 先,金管局薪酬超高,人所共知,據金管局2011年年報顯示,在2011年,單就12名助理總裁,每一名固定薪酬(328萬元)、浮動薪酬(70萬元)、 其他福利(37萬元),總計高達436萬元,已經遠超美國聯儲局主席伯南克的19.97萬美元(約155萬港元),至於其他3名副總裁及總裁薪酬之高,更 是嚇人了。

金管局成員薪酬豐厚,市民不會以「眼紅症」看待,但是同樣克勤克儉的打工仔,卻因為強積金制度出現嚴重偏差而無法養老;以金管局人員的專業能力,可以在這方面做一些貢獻,陳德霖應該拋開少做少錯的思維,為社會作更大貢獻。

陳 德霖說「若金管局擔任強積金公共委託人,將與其法定職能不一致」的說法,未免過於輕率。金管局之成立,並無一條金管局條例為據,而是財政司長按《外匯基金 條例》的授權,成立金管局。所以,金管局總裁由財政司長直接領導。若財政司長指示金管局總裁參與強積金事務,則金管局的職能就多了一項。

事實上,金管局在網頁和年報所列出4項職能,即是維持貨幣穩定、促進金融體系的穩定和健全、協助鞏固香港的國際金融中心地位,以及管理外匯基金,不過,現在金管局所做的事,起碼有一項在職能未列出來,就是替政府管理財政儲備和管理政府基金和法定組織存款。

然則,金管局替政府理財賺錢,為何不能參與強積金事務,協助市民?議員建議金管局推出的強積金產品,看不出為何與金管局法定職能不一致。金管局受命於政府,基於強積金現?不得人心,政府應該要求金管局參與強積金事務,以收帶動改造強積金之效。

Glossary

sundry﹕several or various; not important enough to be named separately; miscellaneous

frugal﹕using only as much money or food as is necessary

by statute﹕according to a written law, rule or a formal document

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