Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Book Fair was too crowded, so I took a detour to Commercial Press where I could leisurely browse over many books. No surprises at the management book corner, but I got this new book at a discount.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

This is supposed to be a novel, but the plot is not too complicated. It begins with the main character, Christopher Boone, finding a dog stabbed to death by a garden fork at night in the backyard garden of a neighbour. He played Sherlock Holmes and started to investigate the murder of the dog and went on to discover secrets about his family and experienced an adventure. I shall not tell the ending of the story in case some of you may wish to read this book yourselves.

The value of the book is not the story, but rather the writing style of the author in telling it. Christopher was actually an autistic 15 year old boy who had behavioral problem and attended Special Needs school. He possessed a gift of doing advanced mathematics in his mind, liked red and hated yellow to the extent of eating only red food. He lacked the ability of communicating with other people and lived in a mind of his own. The book was written with Christopher as the first person and he narrated through the book. The readers are actually reading the mind of this autistic child, experiencing how he thought and felt, what his fears were and what calmed him down.

There are some interesting behaviour of Christopher as portrayed by the author. Whenever Christopher came across a difficult word, he would announce the definition of the word openly, which was quite funny in the middle of a conversation. Other people would look at him and wonder why he was stating the obvious. The author skillfully describes how an autistic child reassured himself by repeating known facts and details.

Christopher was unable to distinguish a joke from fact. To him, everything said were taken by face value. As a result, he thought jokes were real and people were really doing such silly things. When he discovered that people did not mean what they said in a joke, he thought they were telling lies. I think the author is trying to use a metaphor to demonstrate the hypocrisy in our daily life, that people said things they didn't mean, or tried to circumvent the true meaning of nasty words. The world is much simpler in the mind of an autistic child.

I recommend this book for leisure reading. It will only take you a short time a day for several days to read it through. Good for reading while commuting. You will be much surprised with the insight into the mind of an autistic child, and how much similarity there are to ourselves.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Civil Service Pay 公務員薪酬

公務員薪酬是否比外邊的人高呢?這不是一個百萬元獎金問題。辦公室助理有一萬,文員有二萬,高級行政主任有六萬。左看右看都比外邊高很多。如以一段長時間 的平均值去比較,甚麼時候公務員薪酬比外邊低呢?返回二十年前,即1985年,公務員薪酬從未比人低。

公務員薪酬為何要比外邊的人高或低呢?出了半斤力,收番八兩就好合理。現行的薪酬調整機制,就是要確保公務員薪酬和外邊一樣。大家會話,人地有雙糧,又有 花紅,點比較。雖知公務員薪高糧準,又無炒友,而且外邊的雙糧花紅,其實比公務員福利已較差。現時高級公務員的負資產樓,政府會俾津貼,多到可以有餘入 袋;送子女留學,政府又會俾教育津貼。現時的薪酬趨勢調查,已確保公務員薪酬調整不會比人低,而各項薪酬組合,如雙糧花紅,都已計算在內。請看看2002年的薪酬趨勢調查報告

為何公務員薪酬會比外邊高呢?原因是在於一個不完善的機制。薪酬趨勢調查是一個 incremental, 或 muddling through, 或胡混過關的機制,它需要一個準確的基數去支持,而這個基數是由薪酬水平調查提供。事關重大,薪酬水平調查成為各方角力之地。早在1986年,顧問們完成薪酬水平調查報告初稿,發現公務員薪酬水平比外邊高出很多。這份稿不被接納,結果 作出很多修改,達致員方可以接受的程度。今年的薪酬水平調查,可能有同樣情況,且看政府有否學精了。

公務員薪酬應否比外邊的人高呢?有說高薪養廉,沒有高薪就沒有廉官。我認為這是貪官的說詞,先收高薪,然後看賄款有多少。方知道高一尺,魔高一丈,高薪一 萬,賄款二萬,高薪十萬,賄款百萬。其實廉潔在心中,不在回報。而且以財制賄,原則上已欠妥。沒有高薪,但有合理薪酬,是否有理貪污呢?適當教育,再加防賄條 例,就已非常足夠。