Privatisation not the cure for HK's long-term woes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2005, 12:00am

Legco will tomorrow debate the government's plans for privatisation.

The rationale behind privatisation is said to be twofold. It is hoped that, firstly, the revenue generated by selling off public assets will help ease the budget deficit, and secondly, the introduction of market forces into the management of public assets will improve its efficiency.

The benefits of privatisation may seem straightforward enough at first sight, however, experiences from around the world tend to tell a different story. Economists argue that privatisation does not necessarily generate greater cost-efficiency in every case. It very much depends on the type of industry in question and its existing structure; other factors such as the powers of labour unions and anti-competitive legislation also play an important role.

Privatisation, if not handled well, will create unaccountable monopolies whose anti-competitive behaviour ultimately harms public interests.

Hong Kong is suffering from a structural deficit. Selling off public assets may help ease the deficit in the short to medium term.

But in order to cure a structural problem we need a long-term solution. As Hong Kong assumes the status of a world-class city, government expenditure on areas such as education and health care is likely to increase significantly in the long run. The revenue generated by privatisation will be used up one day and our future generations will suffer as a result of our current short-sightedness. Privatisation is no penicillin for our structural deficit problem.

Our next leader must be someone who has the courage and vision to make hard decisions which is best for Hong Kong in the long run. Whilst the shadow of the Link fiasco is still with us, let's hope the government will carefully consider its plans and not rush towards privatisation because it is politically convenient to do so.

A responsible government is not one which sacrifices long-term public interests for the sake of today's popularity ratings.


Long odds for democrat

Hypothetical question regarding the forthcoming chief executive election. If Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Lee Wing-tat are the only candidates prior to the election and after the nomination deadline and Mr Tsang is struck down, what would happen? I assume that Mr Lee would be elected unopposed - quite an interesting scenario which, statistically, is not ridiculous (perhaps on a par with the odds of Liverpool winning the European Cup).

JASON R. ALI, Sheung Wan

Ultimate nightmare

After reading the editorial 'Emotions cloud the issue in Bali drug case' (May 29), I thought that the headline did not really correspond with the content.

It is a proven law of psychology and sociology that attractive individuals usually get treated differently. It is also a natural law that people relate to circumstances and people who they feel they have something in common with. So it is obvious that more people relate to Schapelle Corby, good looks or not, than to an overweight male Hell's Angel! That's exactly why this case caught my attention. 'All-Australian' girl or not, she seems like a normal woman with a normal job taking a normal vacation.

Although I am not Australian, I am a woman and I travel a lot, also to Bali; this would be the ultimate nightmare, drugs being put in my luggage. Getting caught in any country with drugs makes it very difficult to prove your innocence, that's why it is even more frightening.

There are more and more reports regarding people being used as drug mules and yes, a lot of people don't tell the truth in order to get off the hook, but there are investigations going on regarding luggage handling.

Even if Corby is guilty of drug-smuggling I don't feel threatened because I can say 'no' to drugs. I can't say this, if I am in a nightclub which somebody blows up most viciously.

The editorial is calling for people to be more calm and objective, but I did not find the editorial objective at all. Saying this would prevent people like her getting into trouble is saying clearly that she is guilty. But what if she is not and is doomed to stay in prison? Indonesian diplomats receiving death threats is outrageous, there will always be extremists. This is clearly not the intension of the supporters of Corby.


A twisted minority

I am disgusted to hear of Australian citizens condemning the result of the court proceedings regarding Schapelle Corby over drug-trafficking charges.

I don't know whether she is guilty or not, but I also don't know the exact details of the case or the rules governing the Indonesian courts. I suspect most people feel the same and thus their comments would be reserved. For some Australian citizens to suggest that Indonesia is not appreciative of the A$1 billion ($5.9 billion) given by Australia and with others going so far as to say the tsunami donations should be retracted is awful. I am saddened that people from such a developed nation can even consider this.

I am confident most Australians don't feel this way, but it is a shame that pockets of people could have such twisted thoughts and then verbally express them.

AMIT SINGH, Sheung Wan

Unimpressed by service

Hong Kong was voted the best airport in the world, but a recent incident has marred my opinion of the airport.

My husband and I were at the airport on May 24 and we decided to have dinner before I headed home.

My food had not arrived after 15 minutes. I asked a waitress what happened to my meal but she did not come back.

After another 10 minutes my husband asked another waitress what happened to my meal, and she said my food was sold out!

I demanded to know why I was not told this when I ordered my meal and another waitress told me that my food had been dropped on the floor.

I got really angry. Why didn't they apologise to me?

I have high expectations of Hong Kong airport. Such a lapse in service standards should not happen at the best airport in the world.

NG SIEW CHOO, Singapore

Tax shark fins

Referring to your article 'A cruel bounty' (May 28), I think it is shameful that the government is not doing anything to reduce shark fin consumption in Hong Kong.

As a measure to reduce consumption, I propose that there should be a tax on shark fin consumption. With the extra revenue, I believe that the government should reduce the ridiculously high tax on wine. Such a reduction will be welcome because unlike consuming shark fin, consuming wine will not harm the environment and is good for health (when consumed in moderation). Lowering the tax on wine will also help Hong Kong become a wine centre in Asia which will create employment. In short it's an all-round winner.


Setting an example

It has become fashionable in advertisements and announcements of public interest that a few English words are used to attract viewers' attention. One of which is the government promotion on inviting new ID card-holders to use the E-passage at the immigration counter. However, the voice-over on the Chinese TV channels keeps saying 'yee'-passage (as in IPA /ji:/). I believe the proper pronunciation of the letter 'e' should be /i:/. There has been a lot of discussion regarding the medium of instructions at school.

As an English teacher, I believe it is important that students be provided with a proper language environment whenever they are exposed to the language. Shall we start with the government?