Proposal bypasses pressing questions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 September, 2006, 12:00am

One would have thought the government would have learned its lesson from the chief executive's controversial claim of 70 per cent public support for Tamar. Not so. The deputy secretary for housing, planning and lands, Robin Ip Man-fai, now claims: 'The people want the [Central-Wan Chai] bypass; they want to build it as soon as possible.' (Public wants a bypass now, says official', September 1). No proof whatsoever is provided.

Clearly, road users would appreciate less traffic congestion. But the government has yet to prove that the proposed bypass is the best solution and meets the reclamation test of overriding public need. Importantly, as this is the 'last' reclamation, we have to make sure it solves congestion for the long term.

The following questions must be answered in the affirmative before one can support the bypass. First, has the government exhausted all possible and reasonable means to resolve congestion along the Connaught Road-Gloucester Road corridor? Second, what measures has it put in place to avoid the need for further reclamation (more roads) along Hong Kong Island's north shore?

It is unclear how the proposed bypass will resolve the traffic congestion. Although it will allow some traffic to bypass the logjam, it will also make it easier for more traffic to come to the congested areas.

The government has yet to start implementing reasonable mitigating measures, such as electronic road pricing and dynamic tunnel fares to manage traffic, strict loading and unloading control measures, bus route rationalisation, and the financing and implementation of the Northern Island MTR line.

Finally, does the Central-Wan Chai bypass meet the Harbour Planning Principles set out by the Harbourfront Enhancement Committee? Many people are likely to support a tunnel as a means to take traffic underground and away from the harbourfront. However, it is unclear from the proposed design of the bypass and the location of slip roads that this will be achieved. In fact, more traffic will be drawn closer to the harbourfront onto various surface roads.


MBA in common sense

I read with interest a recent South China Morning Post supplement on investing in an MBA. Hong Kong's premium full-time MBA courses attract a wide mix of students from all over the world. They are attracted by Hong Kong's status as a world city and its high standards of education. The entrance requirements for these top courses are comparable to other international courses.

However, unlike in many other countries, all non-local students must leave Hong Kong after graduating. Even if they have been offered a job, the Immigration Department requests that they return home while a work visa is processed. This not only makes it more difficult for foreign MBA students to find jobs, it also makes hiring them less attractive.

Britain has for a number of years granted MBA graduates from the top 50 schools automatic work visas. Surely it would be sensible for Hong Hong to automatically grant work visas to full-time MBA graduates as this would encourage the hiring of people locally.

It would also make the courses more attractive to applicants, allowing for an increase in both the calibre and quantity of students who come here, thus assisting in the government's aim of becoming an education hub.


'Expats' antiquated

I write to express my opposition to the choice of the word 'expatriate' used by your publication. I believe the word carries a significant amount of negative baggage associated with western imperialism and should be exercised with sensitivity in regions that were once colonies. One should also note that the term is used almost exclusively in countries that were once under western rule, and not in regions such as North America and Europe.

According to Wikipedia, 'an expatriate is someone temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of their upbringing or legal residence ...'

When I bring up the topic with westerners in Hong Kong, they typically defend its use as a benign reference to foreign workers. But if that was the case, it should also be used to refer to groups such as Filipino domestic helpers and Gurkha soldiers.

Japan, having been spared western imperial occupation, refers to foreign workers with the stark and positively impolite gaijin, ('foreigner'). While I am not suggesting that we replace 'expatriate' with another pejorative, its exclusive use in referring to westerners in Hong Kong smacks of arrogance.

It is also an undeniable fact that a large number of local residents perceive many westerners here to have superiority complexes. To reduce this divide, we should perhaps think twice about using an antiquated term that belongs to a colonial past.

LYON SHEN, Mid-Levels

No simple solutions

Jeffrey Sachs correctly points out that any lasting solution in the Middle East must be political, not military ('Save us from military solutions', August 29). Unfortunately, his simplistic platitudes about everyone being willing 'to work together to achieve the shared goals of prosperity and well-being for their children' minimise the difficult political and moral choices to be made.

It is difficult to imagine that, based on his work as 'an economist and development practitioner', Professor Sachs believes that it is a lack of 'personal contact or shared experiences' that leads people to distrust one another. On the contrary, contemporary conflicts demonstrate that it is precisely those who have lived in close proximity for centuries - Unionists and Republicans in Northern Ireland, Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka - who are most likely to fear and mistrust each other.

Optimism in a place like the Middle East is welcome, but the mantra intoned by outsiders that all we need is for people of good faith to reason together does more harm than good.

In most conflicts, there is no 'win-win' solution, and the average person is often just as likely as manipulative leaders to place political or religious symbolism ahead of rational self-interest. We do need to encourage the pragmatists and the rationalists, but it does none of us any good to pretend that they are either easy to find or that conflicts are solely the responsibility of crazed, self-serving leaders.

Most conflicts end only after hard choices, concessions and compromise, and pretending that this is easy or painless makes the task more, not less, difficult.