Breaking the poverty cycle for children
I am sad and astounded to find that one in four Hong Kong children live in poverty in 'Asia's World City'. To prevent those born poor staying poor for life, the government must take innovative steps to help them.
A teacher of the underprivileged for more than 10 years, I offer some suggestions which may get them out of their predicament.
One way to break the vicious cycle of poverty is to provide free educational visits to children from poor families. The article 'One in four HK children live in poverty' (Sunday Morning Post, October 17) said children in Shamshuipo suffered abuse at a rate nearly double those in Wan Chai. So we cannot rely on these families to provide the needed exposure for their children. The government must provide funding for specific programmes to widen children's horizons and do it through schools in a discreet and respectful manner so as not to hurt the feelings of the assisted. For example, find out from teachers who are the needy and provide them with free coupons for activities in a tactful way.
An example of a possible educational visit: a day tour to a university campus with undergraduates as tour leaders. Let children who are shut up in cubicles in Shamshuipo see what they can do as adults if they work hard at school. Give them an incentive to strive for, and let them enjoy the lovely scenery.
Other places to visit could be the International Finance Centre and the Botanical Garden. Give children from Kwun Tong a glimpse of the best of this World City. Let them learn about plants and animals. This can be an impetus for them to study. Then there is the Science Museum - have volunteers tell them about the wonders of the scientific world - and the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Show children from Yuen Long the skyline of Hong Kong Island.
The second way to break the cycle of poverty is to ensure that children from poor families reach a minimum academic standard so that when they grow up, they can either advance to higher education or receive proper training in this knowledge-based society. I find that the academic gap becomes nearly unbridgeable once children reach Primary Five. Thus it would be advisable to provide effective remedial lessons in Primary Four on a 'positive discrimination' basis - that is, devote more resources to the needy schools. If children can be helped at this stage, they will probably have a brighter future.
While we discuss passionately the launching of the 3-3-4 system in education reform, let's not forget the basics and deal with problems efficiently now.
EVA LAW, Sha Tin
I like the reader's idea about keeping a log of how much taxpayers' money Leung Kwok-hung wastes during his term as a member of the Legislative Council ('Long Hair: count waste', October 21).
I tried to do the same for a particular highly paid government official, but my calculator quickly ran out of digits.
TITTO CHU, Taikoo Shing
Leave gays alone
Gordon Truscott opposes having a gay parade in Hong Kong, and would have us believe that only gay men suffer failed relationships, abuse and sickness, including Aids and sexually transmitted diseases ('Gay problems', October 20).
He therefore would like to see an end to this parade, presumably so that the costs in doctors, nurses and hospital beds will be less. Mr Truscott most likely would also like to see cross-border trucking stopped, no more businessmen travelling to the mainland, and the closure of 'massage' parlours, most of which are actually brothels. Many truck drivers visit prostitutes across the border and businessmen patronise nightclubs where you can buy out the girls. Due to this 'normal' behaviour you can get Aids and sexual diseases.
So put all those who indulge in risky behaviour in a bad light, not just gay men and women. Although I am not familiar with the gay scene, I assume there are long-lasting relationships without bed-hopping and partner-swapping. These are as safe sexually as any other relationship.
If you really want to hold these costs, close all entertainment places and issue chastity belts to travellers. Or leave people alone. They will not interfere with your life, so let them live the life they are comfortable with.
JEFFRY KUPERUS, Clear Water Bay
Speculation in property drives up housing prices for everyone in Hong Kong, as it does anywhere in the world.
Speculation exacerbates already skewed policies from immigration to harbour reclamation, resulting in more buildings being erected for a population whose growth is slowing.
The marketplace will not always make our life better, otherwise we could abandon government. It would be unforgivable to allow total speculation in property and no government intervention. Profits made on property speculation should be subject to profits tax or capital gains tax. Implemented in the US in the 1980s, these taxes continue to discourage property speculation. I hope Hong Kong will do the same. I feel for people still suffering under property speculation. I differ from Jake van der Kamp's narrow view that property speculators perform a key role for us (October 19). They keep most of us living in shoeboxes.
JOHN YUAN, Dalian University of Technology
Hit firms for revenue
The idea of Hong Kong introducing a sales tax is an issue on which competing camps in the Legislative Council should find common ground.
They have different and good reasons for opposing the imposition of this regressive taxation. Supporters of a sales tax say it will widen the tax base. They ignore the fact that retail prices already contain steep local 'taxes', primarily a rental cost.
As rents are now rebounding, the government could consider increasing taxation on rental incomes and other 'unearned' and 'windfall' profits in the property sector.
Slapping a tax on retail prices will have a harsh impact on consumers with limited incomes. It will not hurt the rich. They can shop duty-free overseas - but so can poorer people. More of us will buy more goods across the border. Shenzhen's retailers could gain more than government coffers.
If the government wants quick billions in new tax revenues, it should look at the ways in which Hong Kong's large corporations minimise, evade and avoid their tax liabilities through legal loopholes, overseas or associated companies, and creative accountancy. The Liberal Party could probably be a useful source of inside information.
BARRY GIRLING, Lantau
Unfair to new drivers
I refer to a rather draconian practice in the issuance (and retraction) of drivers' licences to newcomers to Hong Kong from certain countries, including the Philippines.
When Filipinos apply, the Transport Department immediately issues a temporary Hong Kong licence to those who have a valid Philippine driver's licence. The temporary licence mirrors the applicant's Philippine licence and otherwise carries no restrictions. It is valid for up to one year and allows the applicant to drive in Hong Kong. The only catch is that the Filipino must pass the Hong Kong driving test within the year of the temporary licence in order to obtain a 'permanent' Hong Kong licence. (Drivers from the US, UK and Canada, among other countries, are not required to take any tests and are immediately issued with a 'permanent' licence.)
The draconian practice relates to actions taken if the Filipino driver fails any of the three parts of the Hong Kong test. Before sitting the test, the Filipino must surrender his or her temporary Hong Kong licence. If they fail any part of the test, the temporary licence is retained and the Filipino can no longer drive in Hong Kong. He or she must then apply for a learner's licence that restricts them to driving with a certified instructor. I consider this to be an extremely unfair practice.
NAME, ADDRESS SUPPLIED