We need legislation - not government by the weak-kneed

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 February, 2007, 12:00am

Despite showing strong early promise after the demise of Tung Chee-hwa, the government of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is slowly eroding its public support. Among recent displays of incompetence are its voluntary emissions trading and minimum wage schemes. Why would anyone want to join these schemes? We need laws to improve our lives, not charity.

The government-influenced ousting of the president of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, denial of our appalling air pollution and a general lack of resolve to tackle problems in a way that causes even the slightest discontent among vested interests are all serious signs of an administration unable to perform.

The West Kowloon redevelopment, electronic road pricing and many other key issues have been placed in the 'too hard' basket. Rather than controlling vehicle numbers and patterns in congested areas, there is an outdated mentality of just building more roads. The highway flyovers planned for Sha Tin, for example, show no regard for environmental protection or the wishes and investments of thousands of residents.

Friday's so-called forum for Election Committee members was the latest sham ('Hands up who's frustrated at forum', February 3), an event so stage-managed that it was an embarrassing one-way flow of information and an insult to society.

It's curious that, when Beijing is determined to push forward with a policy, it seems to think through the idea and then implement it as law - as proper governments are supposed to, to improve people's lives. It does not ask for voluntary participation. The problem is getting provincial governments to follow the new laws. This is entirely reasonable and understandable.

In Hong Kong, by contrast, we have a population of law-abiding, obedient subjects with a government unable or unwilling to enact the tough laws needed. The Tsang administration comes across as weak-kneed, indecisive and incompetent on many of the issues that really count to the average resident or investor.

It is a shame that a population of generally educated, resourceful and tolerant people should be governed under such constraints. I guess we should just continue doing our best and expecting little vision or true leadership. The trains still run on time and the roads get repaired, so what else is there to expect? Plenty.


Blatant bribery

When will our government officials and politicians stop pandering to greedy commercial interests? I refer to the ever-louder hints that the profits tax rate may be lowered from 17.5 per cent to perhaps 15 per cent ('Tsang pledges tax cuts and 'a new HK'', February 2). This is a blatant attempt to bribe our wealthy businessmen to support Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in the chief executive election.

Mr Tsang says that lowering the profits tax rate by 1 percentage point will cost the government HK$8 billion in lost revenue. This is an enormous sum, and will deprive us of much-needed social spending, especially on education and environmental protection. Since revenue is so hard to come by (consider the recent goods and services tax debate), why are Mr Tsang and the financial secretary so eager to give it away, especially to those who don't need it?

Overseas foundations (subsidised by US billionaires) constantly lecture that we must lower corporate taxes to maintain a free economy, attract foreign investment and compete with Singapore. Of course, they repeat these mantras in Singapore and elsewhere - hoping to create ultra-competitive, beggar-thy-neighbour economic policies across Asia.

The winners are international capitalists with no loyalty to any nation, people or ethical values. The losers are all of us in Hong Kong, who must work ever harder to maintain a decent standard of living and a humane society.

If Mr Tsang and his financial officers decide to reduce profits tax and give away billions of dollars in sorely needed revenue, we can be sure they have been seduced by the Pied Pipers of international finance. Our children, our environment and our social stability will be sacrificed to enhance electoral opinion and curry favour with foreigners.

J. GARNER, Sham Shui Po

Clearly logical

Peter Lok wonders why Friends of the Earth has questioned the government's failure to include carbon dioxide in its emissions trading scheme when the greenhouse gas is 'not a pollutant per se' ('Smoggy logic', February 2). He rightly points out that carbon dioxide does not make the skies less blue. However, he has missed the point that it is a major accelerator of global warming, and that it contributes to air pollution indirectly.

As the climate gets warmer, more air conditioning will be used, leading to higher energy consumption and the emission of more air pollutants. The government has a narrow objective of using the emissions trading scheme to encourage the power industry of Hong Kong and Guangdong to curb air pollution - and so get back our blue skies. I believe that Hong Kong, as an international city, has an obligation to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Kyoto Protocol, which requires developed countries to cut these back to an average of 5 per cent below their 1990 levels.

Emissions trading schemes that focus on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are not unusual. Corporations in the US began voluntarily trading greenhouse gas emissions on the Chicago Climate Exchange in 2003. In early 2005, 25 European Union countries joined the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the largest multinational greenhouse gas trading scheme in the world.

It took great effort and a long time for our government to set up a pilot emissions trading scheme, and it makes sense to use this mechanism to encourage power companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions along with other pollutants. This would bring added benefits to the scheme and the environment - especially with international scientists repeatedly reminding us that no one will escape the dire consequences of failure to act on global warming.

EDWIN LAU, acting director, Friends of the Earth (HK)

Departure the only cure

My daughter has been plagued with a cough for the past six months. I call it the Hong Kong cough. On our most recent trip to our doctor, he asked: 'Where are you from? Maybe you should look into leaving Hong Kong.'

My daughter's cough is not caused by a virus but by Hong Kong's air. The only way we were able to break its grip was to leave for a week. Five days in Singapore and her cough was gone. Unfortunately, it came back shortly after our return.

As I contemplate our future in Hong Kong, I wonder how much money is lost to illness linked to the poor environment. Is this loss higher than in other cities of a comparable size? I do not know. However, I do know that most first-world cities have far more progressive environmental policies and enforce environmental laws more aggressively.

Our political and economic leaders are padding their pockets at the expense of our well-being.


Rogue fathers and sons

I refer to Beatriz Taylor's letter asking why Macau is giving refuge to Kim Jong-nam, son of North Korea's dictator ('Why harbour rogues?', February 5). Now why should the son bear the guilt of the father? A man should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and, so far, I've not seen anything in print or otherwise that says the son committed any atrocities.

Maybe one reason North Korea is a closed country is that Mr Kim's father never had the opportunity to visit or live in a free-wheeling, more democratic Macau.


Name the core values

I would like to ask Howard Lai ('Fallout for marriages', February 3) what the 'core values' are that can only be imparted to children by heterosexual couples. Surely values such as honesty, integrity, diligence, compassion, respect and tolerance can be learned from gay couples, as well as straight ones. And I'm sure we can all think of plenty of traditional couples with poor parenting skills. Sadly, the evidence is all around us.

As for the argument that gay marriages contribute to the spread of Aids, I fail to see the connection. Aids is spread in many ways - sexual contact, drug use, blood transfusions, from mother to unborn child - and affects both heterosexuals and homosexuals. People like Mr Lai shouldn't let prejudice get in the way of rational thinking.

MARY LEE, Fanling

Soft loan sharks

President Hu Jintao goes to Africa offering billions of yuan in loans and aid. In exchange, China gets priority access to much-needed commodities. It's a bit odd, isn't it, as China itself gets soft loans for development from Japan and doesn't want to be seen as a developed nation yet, as this may have implications for its exports? Isn't it shooting yourself in the foot to give China soft loans it can then use to secure the commodities that you are also after?