PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2012, 12:00am


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New jobs to silence the squawking

There is a simple explanation for why the appointment of a deputy financial and a deputy chief secretary is long overdue.

These posts were abolished some years ago in a management restructuring and a layer of secretaries was created as headless chickens to squabble and squawk among themselves in prolonged battles for leadership in the government farmyard. I am surprised that no one from the private sector has come forward with this reason when their approach to get an answer from the government all too often is passed from pillar to post.

In recent history, a post of secretary for development was created to try to bring a number of chickens to roost together but they were all level pecking, and it was not wholly successful.

Now chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, in his proposed structuring, is bringing back the deputies so that agreements can be reached and disagreements settled at a lower level without having to wait in a queue to catch the chief's attention, and so that the work of government can proceed more expeditiously and efficiently.

I write with experience of a system that had deputies for finance, chief secretary and economics.

I am surprised, too, that critics of what is proposed cannot recall when the chief secretary, who had so many important things on his plate, was made responsible for lopping the branches of dangerous trees. Why?

David Akers-Jones, Yau Ma Tei

Respect hard work behind textbooks

The dispute between the government and publishers over the pricing of textbooks has gone on for years.

Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung is disappointed differences remains unresolved. However, a more in-depth look at this issue is needed.

Publishers had to cater to Hong Kong's new academic structure and the greater emphasis on e-platform learning.

They had to write off old textbooks and make huge investments so they could adapt to the new set-up.

They have worked hard to advance e-learning platforms for self-study, which means that the price of a textbook does not just cover the cost for what is printed on paper.

The products available are the result of research and hard work by a team of authors. They are produced by professionals.

I find it disappointing that Mr Suen has announced a HK$50 million subsidy to help not-for-profit publishers develop e-textbooks.

He should recognise the contribution established publishers have already made in providing up-to-date e-learning materials. Through his proposal, he could shrink their market share.

The government should monitor textbook prices. But the interests (and sometimes conflicts of interest) of all stakeholders should be understood and respected, before coming up with a proposed solution.

Mr Suen is failing to show respect to those authors, artists, programmers and editors who have over a long period of time made important contributions.

Rachel Ko, Ma On Shan

Lift subsidy to cover rise in MTR fares

Under the fare adjustment mechanism with the government, the MTR Corporation has raised fares a number of times and will do so again, with a 5.4 per cent hike next month.

The mechanism is supposed to also allow for fares to fall when there is deflation, but Hong Kong seldom suffers from this economic problem, so fares have not dropped.

The latest increase will place a serious financial burden on many passengers, especially people from low-income groups. They find that their wages have not gone up but everything is now more expensive.

If transport costs go up, it makes it more difficult for them to pay for other necessities.

They are forced to spend everything that they earn each month.

Transport subsidies are available, but there are tight restrictions. These restrictions must be relaxed so that more people who are in need are eligible.

The Hong Kong government has to give greater consideration to those citizens who are suffering from the effects of inflation.

If it does not, then we will see greater social discontent as people react to the effects of leading tougher lives.

Mak Cho-yi, Tai Wai

Tobacco profit smells of hypocrisy

I wonder if Alex Lo's enthusiastic support for dividend income from the tobacco company shares he implies he holds would be the same if it were 100 years ago and the company was instead Jardines distributing opium around China ('Tobacco - the worst of all vices?' May 2).

He acknowledges the harm and the millions of premature deaths from continuing sales of tobacco that kill one in two people who use it as intended. Yet he sees no moral hypocrisy in taking profit from this.

Lo is often right, but on this he has it very, very wrong.

Richard Fielding, professor, School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong

Get a grip on risks before you buy in

It is understandable that banks will respond to allegations over misrepresentations to customers after training their sales teams to take the right approach when selling accumulators.

Commissions are high on derivative sales and sales staff may push forward to meet their own ends. It is unethical for clients to be offered such risky trades without giving them an honest risk-to-reward schedule. Investors must first focus on capital preservation, then excess growth.

We live in a low-interest era and some people opt for financial products they do not understand. Don't ever buy something you don't understand.

Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels

No excuse to put parody points aside

Your editorial ('Copyright protection bill is a balancing act', May 5) is a classic case of stating all the right reasons but missing the point.

Yes, the government is right to update the existing regime in the face of technological advances, and there is widespread misunderstanding about the law.

As you said, these worries are not unfounded. Yet, while you conclude that more time for discussion is reasonable and the bill should be passed - presumably as it is - before the Legislative Council disbands in the summer, you overlook the critical point of contention raised by netizens: some form of statutory exemption or protection for parody is needed.

The government's claim that parody is difficult to define is not an excuse.

Legal protection allowing caricature, parody, pastiche and other forms of derivative use of copyrighted works is one of the key components of the European Union copyright directive of 2011, requiring member states to harmonise their respective copyright laws to explicitly allow such acts - all for protecting freedom of expression.

Why has our government omitted to tell us this is a global legislative trend for intellectual property?

Yes, copyright protection is a balancing act, and that is precisely why our citizens should be legally protected by such an exemption.

Charles Mok, chairman,The Professional Commons

Better sex education needed

I refer to the report ('Abortions fear over hospital closure threat', May 6) regarding a Mid-Levels hospital that carries out almost half of Hong Kong's abortions.

The fear is that some women will go to underground abortion clinics or substandard mainland facilities, leading to unsafe terminations. The closure of Hong Kong Central Hospital will mean the city does not have enough clinics to meet rising demand.

Women may be forced to go over the border despite the risks, because 'public hospitals have strict criteria for who is eligible' for an abortion.

The Hong Kong government must build more abortion clinics and ensure that it is meeting demand.

There is another issue, which is that the high number of abortions reflects a problem in our society.

There must be better sex education to ensure that young people fully understand the responsibilities of having a child and think carefully before becoming involved in sexual relationships.

Ken Lam, Tsuen Wan