Donald Tsang

No excuse to shirk social responsibility

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 July, 2006, 12:00am

In response to your editorial 'Greater effort needed to stop welfare abuse' (July 15), an increase in the number of people abusing Comprehensive Social Security Assistance does not mean that all young parents of working age should be deprived of social benefits, especially if they have offspring.

Most recipients of social welfare are young and uneducated. They have to work very long hours to earn enough to raise their children. But who then stays at home to look after their children? One of the parents? Sorry, they have to work. How about a domestic helper? Sorry, too expensive.

To guarantee these children receive good care while their parents are at work, the government should consider granting allowances for hired

childcare, or for the children to go to day care or nursery school.

While it is true that the poor and low-skilled should be self-sufficient, this should not be an excuse for the government to shirk its responsibility to help them. Otherwise, tragedies like the suicide of three women in Tin Shui Wai earlier this month will strike again in deprived districts.


Diatribe puzzling

I am really puzzled by former civil servant Andrew Wells' article 'The democracy demon' (July 15), which argued that those who marched for democracy on July 1 should think carefully about what they wish for. Perhaps it is time for old colonials to stop defending Britain's undemocratic rule of Hong Kong.

Wells' diatribe cites democracy's 'failures' around the globe as evidence it is an inappropriate form of government for anywhere, not just Hong Kong. What does he propose? Fascism? Soviet communism?

He argues that, rather than narrowing the wealth gap, universal suffrage has had the 'opposite effect in the United States and India'. Does he mean that those two countries would have narrower wealth gaps had they had totalitarian governments? How could he or anyone know?

He then uses Singapore as an example of how democracy has had the 'opposite effect' to promoting freedom of expression and public debate. I would like to ask Wells what planet he lives on. Does anyone in their right mind think Singapore is a democracy? Why doesn't he just make it clear the article is a farce by declaring that the US lacks freedom of expression due to its democratic system?


You've missed the bus

Albert Cheng King-hon's analysis of bus companies and their perks is a bit late given that he is a member of the Legislative Council transport panel ('Alternative route to revenue', July 15). On his watch, an outrageous deal was cut with the operators, and his committee was fully informed about it last November. Without any public consultation, the most polluting bus company in Hong Kong, Citybus, was granted another 10-year franchise, beginning this month. Citybus has a paltry 10 of the new, clean Euro III buses out of a fleet of about 750.

As for KMB, it got a sweetheart deal by having its new franchise renewed more than a year before its old one expired (for the maximum 10 years) with no requirement for pollution reduction and without any public consultation.

Finally, a massive property company which owns both Citybus and New World First Bus, and whose spokesman is our former police commissioner and the chief executive's brother, has wastefully 'invested' in not one, but two massive new depots, side by side, right on what will be prime waterfront property in Chai Wan. The public is paying for this gold-plated squatting through higher fares. Yet 20 per cent of New World First Bus fleet is not even up to Euro II standards.

Reform is definitely needed and we agree with Mr Cheng's ideas. It is just a pity that he did not sound the alarm when he found out what was going on last November so the public could try and stop these 10-year contracts from being signed.


Culpability clear

Your correspondents Ian Hardee and Anthony Lee are partially correct in their views on measures to control pollution, but in effect they join Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in shifting attention away from the government's primary responsibility.

In his letter, Mr Hardee wonders what Mr Tsang would have to say about the chief justice's limousine left idling outside the Hong Kong Club ('Match platitudes on pollution with housekeeping', July 13). The exhaust of an idling modern Mercedes is cleaner than the air taken into the engine. The heat and carbon dioxide it emits will be less than if the car is driven around the block to keep cool.

Getting at captains of industry for refusing to dress down, as Mr Lee does in his letter 'Take off the gloves' (July 13) is perhaps satisfying, but less important than mandating clean exhausts for all minibuses, buses and diesel trucks, old and new, local and cross-border. This duty falls on the government.

Similarly, calling on citizens to work in 25.5 degrees Celsius, in offices with no natural ventilation, will only makes office workers dozy, lowering productivity (the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers recommends 20 degrees). We should all use electricity more responsibly, but the primary focus should be on mandatory pollution limits on pollution producers; and not 'in the long run', as our chief executive disappointingly stated, but on an accelerated basis. Again, this is the duty of the government.

It is easy to blame citizens, and we have our responsibilities, but they will be more willingly taken up if the government displays single-minded dedication to immediate, compulsory and demanding pollution limits. So far the evidence for this is as thin as the air is thick.