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Letters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am

Why new top posts are essential

I cannot understand why Miriam Lau Kin-yee (RTHK's Letter to Hong Kong, June 3) requires yet another explanation as to why it is so desirable to have a deputy chief secretary and deputy financial secretary appointed while moaning about the failure of the accountability, or ministerial, system. These appointments would remedy one of the fundamental weaknesses of the system, which is its accountability.

It is weak because the secretaries - the bureau chiefs, the ministers, call them what you will - have no one between them and the more exalted chief secretary and financial secretary. They are all level pegging and argue and endlessly pass the buck to one another, or even complain brazenly and publicly, 'I'm sorry it's not my responsibility'.

The appointment of these two deputies would stop this nonsensical behaviour. It would allocate responsibility in these turf wars (primus inter pares) and require the appropriate minister to take charge and to be accountable and bring the arguments to a conclusion.

It would leave the chiefs' desk clear of these disputes until the decisions are reached so that recommendations can come forward to the financial secretary or chief secretary.

As I have said previously, we had three deputies in the past, an additional deputy responsible for the economy who, again, was a most useful ally when policies were in dispute.

Today's situation is so much more complicated than those palmy days. How much more is a deputy financial secretary needed to help grasp the complexities of this global world as it affects the finances and day-to-day running of Hong Kong.

Let us stop bickering about these proposals, approve them speedily and watch the administration gather strength and speed to deal with the gathering storm, forget past failings and have no excuse but to be fully accountable in future.

David Akers-Jones, former chief secretary, Yau Ma Tei

Minimum wage rise a bad idea

In the 12 months since the minimum wage legislation was introduced, the rate of inflation has increased in Hong Kong.

Now some groups representing the grass roots in society are calling for the statutory minimum rate of HK$28 an hour to be raised to HK$33.

People argue that workers on a minimum wage have difficulty making ends meet, but it is a fallacy to think that because of the legislation, employers will give all unskilled employees the same minimum wage rate.

Hard work is often rewarded with better pay, and means that some of these workers are already on HK$33 through their own efforts.

We have to recognise that a higher statutory minimum rate will affect some businesses.

If local stores and restaurants have to pay a higher rate, they will need to raise prices and they could lose customers. As a consequence, their businesses will suffer. If they have to fire workers, this could lead to a higher rate of unemployment.

One person's gain can be another person's loss. This is not the time to raise the minimum wage.

Hayley Yeung, Tuen Mun

Pointless waste of life on mountain

I refer to the article ('Overcrowding at Everest is deadly: climber', June 1).

It is sheer stupidity and irresponsibility for inexperienced climbers to attempt to climb Mount Everest.

They are not only endangering their own lives, but also that of their rescuers. And when these tourists go up in droves, the risks of accidents multiply. Since when has climbing Mount Everest become a popular sport?

I suspect people are unduly influenced by lists of '100 things to do before you die' or '50 places to see before you die' or things like that.

I understand these could be worthwhile personal challenges, but risky activities should not be undertaken without adequate training.

Dying while scaling the world's highest mountain is not a heroic act - it is simply a tragedy, an unnecessary waste of human life. I wish people could change their mindset of always wanting to conquer nature.

Conquer human-generated problems instead, like poverty and terrorism. Then they would win the ultimate bragging rights.

Karson Chu, Sheung Shui

Pupils know little about world affairs

It's not uncommon in Hong Kong to hear young people expressing an indifference to international affairs and even a globally significant event that might have taken place in the city. I wonder why so many youngsters appear uninterested in current affairs.

I think the main reason for this kind of attitude is the education system in the city.

Teachers have tight schedules that they must stick to if they are to complete the syllabus.

This does not leave them with sufficient time to discuss international affairs with their students in class.

Also, students have to work hard to cram for exams. They may have to give up some extra-curricular activities and abandon additional reading, on, for example, global issues.

I also think the media has to share some of the blame. There are a lot of fashion magazines and online gossip forums which are popular with teenagers.

They would prefer to log on to them rather than learn about what is happening in the world on other websites.

I think the education curriculum needs to be reformed in order to enable students to broaden their horizons.

International affairs should be incorporated in school lessons, where appropriate.

Schools have to take the lead in this area.

They should organise discussion forums and debates in order to cultivate critical thinking.

I would also like to see subsidies being made available so that school trips abroad can be organised.

Young people are the future pillars of society.

How can they achieve their potential if they are just restricted to rote learning? They need to be helped to develop an interest in the outside world.

Coco Lai, Sha Tin

Unused food can be given to charities

It is astonishing that supermarkets are wasting so much food, much of which is still edible, every day.

What is even more shocking is that this food is ending up in Hong Kong's landfills. Again, this is happening on a daily basis.

Is there really no alternative, no better use that could be made of these products that have to be taken off the stores' shelves?

From my perspective, I think the companies have two options.

Where the food is no longer fit to eat, it could be turned into compost which could be used as fertiliser. Where it is still safe to eat, it could be donated to charities to feed people.

These are both meaningful options which could actually make an important contribution to society.

However, the supermarket chains are refusing to adopt these measures, which are a form of recycling, because they are concerned it would affect their already massive profits.

They are willing to dump all this food or deliberately destroy it [so it is unfit to eat] and will not adopt a policy that could help those who are in need.

They deserve to be criticised for their actions. I understand that supermarkets like to keep their shelves full to attract customers, but as a consequence they are wasting a lot of food.

The government should charge them a waste levy or ban them from dumping this food in landfills. Obviously, it would be better if the supermarkets took an ethical decision to give this food away.

Daniel Hui Yin-hang, Sha Tin

Price has to be paid for green energy

Edwin Lau Che-feng, of Friends of the Earth ('Can Leung get the job done and lead us to greener ways?' May 31), makes some insightful observations on the government and its wavering commitment to the environment.

When referring to the rising energy tariffs, however, he neglects to inform readers that it is precisely because of the stringent government policy on reducing emissions by 2015 that power companies must increase the amount of energy generated by gas-fired operations. I'm assuming this natural gas must be imported, at today's inflated market prices. A tariff increase, if you'll pardon the phrase, seems only natural.

We all want a cleaner, greener Hong Kong. It seems a little hypocritical and naive, however, to criticise the lack of action taken in certain areas of the environment, then complain about the logical impact of getting one of the very things you want.

Richard Tunbridge, North Point

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