PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:07pm


Lower birth rate will be good for HK

I refer to the report ('Birth ban will leave HK with fewer workers', August 1).

People seem to be obsessed with numbers, be it in Hong Kong or the mainland. We no longer live in an industrial society.

We now live in an information age where quality is more important than quantity, Imagine when it all started in Hong Kong, it took two people to carry one person on a sedan chair. Nowadays one bus driver can take more than 100 passengers and a train driver can take more than 2,000 passengers. We have to consider the fact the productivity of the people has risen significantly over the years.

The days of entrepreneurs opening sweatshop factories in Hong Kong are gone, and unlikely to return in the foreseeable future. With the increase in productivity, there will be less jobs and not more. That fact that people are having fewer children is because they care. Fewer children means more focused attention and hence a better chance for higher education, which will prepare them for the more knowledge-based jobs.

We do not need more people in Hong Kong. If there is a decline in population, so be it.

I am also baffled by the suggestion to delay retirement. I am concerned about unemployment among young people.

If the number of jobs in a society is fixed in the short-term, I would rather see the people in the 60-65 age bracket retire, than see them deny job opportunities to young people in the 20-25 age bracket.

Dennis Li, Mid-Levels

Exploding myths on health care

Several health economic fallacies underpin recent hand-wringing about future health burdens from Hong Kong's changing population structure.

It is probably wrong to say population ageing increases health-care costs. Costing care by age then multiplying this up is misleading. Population ageing need not increase costs.

Morbidity patterns are changing and each cohort is generally healthier than the last. Witness Japan's sprightly elders. Costs relate to proximity of death, not age, and are greatest in the last six months of life. Also, more elderly mean more healthy elderly companions, who with domestic helpers can provide significant amounts of care. Any future cost increase due to age is therefore likely to be more modest than feared.

It is also wrong to say technology increases health care costs. More effective technologies should reduce such costs. If a cheaper alternative exists, reject the more expensive one. Unrestrained use of cost-ineffective technologies and unnecessary treatments will raise costs.

The claim that public-funded health care is unaffordable, so we need private health insurance to avoid raising taxes, is wrong. The public-funded National Health Service in Britain is more efficient and almost 50 per cent cheaper that America's private insurance-based system. Spending on health in Hong Kong has increased because more products are available and people have greater disposable income. As gross domestic product rises, more public money should be available to fund expected modest rises in health-care costs. Private insurance shifts the cost burden from the rich to the poor. Transaction costs of private insurance mean less money is spent on actual care.

It is probably wrong to say health promotion should target the young. If you target the middle-aged and the elderly, the health gains are greater than among relatively healthier younger groups. The key issue is the amount of health gain per dollar spent.

Richard Fielding, Pok Fu Lam

Passenger safety is top priority

I refer to the letter by Mike Cartwight ('Spare a thought for storm crews', August 3).

As the public transport regulator, the government takes the view, widely shared by the community, that safety for passengers and staff of operators alike is the top priority for our public transport system. Like other public transport operators, the MTR Corporation met this expectation when Typhoon Vicente hit Hong Kong.

The government in particular appreciates the efforts of the MTR's frontline staff to cope with severe weather conditions during the typhoon. But we are not complacent.

The government and the MTR acknowledge that there is room for improvement in the communication to passengers and relief measures for stranded passengers. And actions are being taken to put in place appropriate improvements.

Andy Chan, deputy secretary for transport and housing (transport), Transport and Housing Bureau

Ensure that there is no propaganda

I am concerned about the textbooks that may be used to teach national education, as it is claimed they may flatter the Chinese Communist Party.

Patriotism is more than just rejoicing in a nation's progress. It is equally important to show the downsides of our motherland so we can fully understand China.

Biased material distorts the original purpose of national education. It should help to hone students' critical thinking skills by giving them facts, not opinions. Our future pillars should not be fed the official party line.

Biased textbooks will essentially falsify history. We need to be able to look frankly at a variety of subjects, including human rights abuses.

Last but not least, I would question funds being spent on this course. The topic of modern China is already covered in the liberal studies curriculum.

Still, if the course is to go ahead, teachers and pupils must be given as much freedom as possible in the classroom so they can look at all the issues relating to the country. The authorities must ensure that all suggestions of brainwashing are avoided by having an open course.

I hope the government will face up to the problems that have been outlined and ensure there is no biased material presented to students.

You can nurture patriotism and still present information in an objective format.

Tommy Chan Chuen-hin, Sha Tin

Return to knock-out system

The disqualification of eight badminton players from China, South Korea and Indonesia for 'throwing' their matches at the London Olympics was swift and just, but it barely scratched the surface.

No one could seriously believe that these individuals made such an important tactical decision - one which brought shame and potential ruin upon themselves - on their own, and that their coaches and managers were not involved.

The response of China's head coach, Li Yongbo, to reporters' questions after the infamous game was revealing: 'This is nothing. It was just a game' ('China's top two axed over match-fixing', August 2).

In this light, the hypocrisy of the Chinese delegation's response to the disqualification was palpable, saying that its disqualified players had violated the Olympic ideal and spirit of fair competition. Evidently the delegation was hoping that, by making sacrificial lambs of these two hapless players, it could emerge from the whole sordid incident unscathed. We all know what to expect of a probe before it begins.

One can only hope that this incident forces the Badminton World Federation to throw out its current scheduling system (which is an open invitation to similar future abuses), and restore the much more sensible system of simple knock-outs, which was designed to guarantee an all-out effort by all teams, in the best Olympic spirit.

Tony Hung, Ma On Shan

Cable just does not seem to care

I refer to the letter from Cable TV's Carmen Cheung over its provision of English-language commentary for the Olympics ('Cable TV defends coverage', August 2).

She said that two channels are enough, and an extra Nicam service appears to be unnecessary. Does she not accept that letters to these columns and complaints to Cable TV indicate that extra provision is much in demand? What if I do not wish to watch rowing on the 3D channel, but prefer archery on an HD channel? Or I want to watch a sport in HD, not standard definition, having paid for the better quality service?

Ms Cheung's defence amounts to 'we can't be bothered'. I have come to regard this as a typical response from the company regarding English-language provision. As another correspondent observed, it would be an improvement if we could turn the commentary off, and simply listen to the event with the audience providing a commentary. Cable TV cannot provide that either.

Geoff Carey, Tai Po