Fairer system if we paid for our local calls

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 April, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 April, 1996, 12:00am

As one in favour of the proposed change in telephone pricing, I read with interest Andy Ho's article on the subject ('The number's up for phone-charges plan', South China Morning Post, April 9). While I understand Mr Ho's logic and the fact that he purports to represent popular sentiment, I disagree with some of his points.

Mr Ho assumes that any change in the pricing scheme necessarily involves criticism of Hongkong Telecom's profitability. But a change in the pricing scheme is supposed to affect the incidence of phone charges on phone users. Nowhere has it been mentioned that new charges should result in less profit for Hongkong Telecom - in fact it can be assumed that any proposals are aimed at maintaining current levels of profits.

Mr Ho seems to approve of the current tangle of cross-subsidies between IDD and local calls, and between light local callers and heavy local callers. However, he says that heavy local callers are also likely to be heavy IDD callers, meaning they contribute to a cheaper local service for the light local callers.

I propose that the pricing system would be better and fairer if everyone simply paid for the calls that they made. I have calculated that my household would save money on local calls under the proposed six-cents-per-minute scheme, and we would also benefit from reduced IDD rates. Some people worry that the new scheme would pave the way for easier price increases in future. This does not make sense.

The smallest increment by which it would be possible to increase the per-minute charge is one cent, and to justify a raise from six cents to seven cents (more than 16 per cent) would take a good few years of inflation.

Lastly, I object to the likes of the Democrats, the Liberals and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong always fighting against what they deem 'unpopular' government proposals. Since when has democracy become a synonym for selfishness? These proposals are only 'unpopular' in that they are unpopular with their voters' wal-lets.

I would like to throw the words 'democracy' and 'popularity' back at Mr Ho. He says that public opinion is against changing the phone pricing system because there has been a hue and cry in the media about it. How is this representative of the majority of Hong Kong people? So the Democrats mounted a signature campaign over the Easter holidays. How many signatures is that? A drop in the ocean compared to the silent majority. The Government should gauge public opinion on the issue.