What Tung could have said

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 October, 1998, 12:00am

The headline of your editorial of October 8 calls Tung Chee-hwa's speech a 'flat address', and I would agree with you that the Chief Executive neither offered any quick fixes nor hope for the present crisis to go away in the short term; but what else could he have said? His only alternative would have been to make it painfully clear to all of us that: Ordinary Hong Kongers, many local banks, as well as the Government's own coffers, had, for decades, increasingly and overly relied on property as their main source of income - and lost.

Spiralling property prices also pushed many salaries and virtually all goods and services to levels which (even now) are far higher than in most other major cities the world over - and all of them must still come down further, before we can compete internationally.

The present government can at best try to deflate this (largely inherited) unsustainable bubble in a manner where we will all lose feathers, but where at least, for example, a banking crisis can be avoided.

Prices and salaries, once having come down to internationally competitive levels, will (and indeed should) stay there.

With government income dramatically falling, it is hardly the time to boost social welfare, and strictly impossible to bail out all those 'newly poor', who now pay dearly for 'past sins', where they borrowed money to buy (long-overpriced) real estate, trusting/speculating that the bubble would never burst.

By stating the obvious, Mr Tung's address would have been shorter and certainly less soothing.

But would it have won him more praise from the proverbial man in the street - or the press? Dr MICHAEL J. THOMAS Central In your Policy Address 98 supplement, of October 8, you say: 'But no extra residential places for the disabled will be allocated to shorten waiting times of around seven years.' This requires clarification.

Paragraph 136 of the Chief Executive's speech clearly states 'we will provide over 400 extra day and residential places for disabled people'. About half of these will be residential places.

At present, the Government provides more than 8,000 residential places for people with disabilities and has already allocated resources to provide an additional 2,000 places over the next few years.

The necessary planning and construction work is already in progress. This year's allocation of 200 places will add to the supply and will, we envisage, reduce waiting times. Today, these vary according to the different types of residential services provided and currently range from eight months to five years.

ROBIN C. GILL Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare