PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2007, 12:00am

Should fare bargaining be allowed for Hong Kong's taxis?

If the taxi trade needs a public consultation to come to an agreement on common-sense decisions, so be it, but why are the suggested models in this taxi review nonsensical and overcomplicated?

Are they the compromise worked out between bureaucrats and a few large taxi lords who have been taken by surprise by the success of the small call centre co-operatives that have sprouted up in the taxi business?

The review can be expedited by including blatantly obvious and simple solutions.

When you flag down a taxi, you pay the amount on the meter. There is no negotiation and any refusal to pay is met with law enforcement. And yes, there appears good justification for the flagfall to be increased.

However, when you call a cab you pay the price negotiated; whether that's a flat price or a percentage discount, that's no one's business except for the passenger, the call centre and the driver.

The market will determine the average fares as a result of competition among taxis as well as limo and van services.

Customers can expect that the market will gravitate towards surcharges for short distances, during bad weather or festivals and, assuming the operators get the hang of it, for last-minute bookings.

Customers can also look forward to continuing the practice of discounts for long trips booked in advance and ever-improving call services.

In this way the government can stay small as there is no need for it to decide on varying fares. Moreover, changes in the market fares for call taxis can become one of the factors for decisions on any changes in the flagfall.

As for taxi pooling, forget it. Taxi sharing is the prerogative of the passenger. Handing the decision to wait for more passengers to join you should never be handed over to the taxi driver unless Hong Kong is determined to lose its status as a world city.

The only issue taxi operators need to resolve is getting seven-seater vans on the road for families with luggage, so that they can compete with vans and limos, which are still the better option on the airport run despite their ridiculous struggle over maintaining access to the terminals.

Paul Zimmerman, convenor, Designing Hong Kong Harbour District

Are you happy with your work-life balance?

Hong Kong is a stressful city and the work-life balance of many people is terrifying.

According to a survey, the work-life ratio is 83:17 ('30pc of workers want to leave HK over long hours', October 24). Having to live under such pressure must affect the health of employees.

Long working hours are normal for Hong Kong residents. Their health is at risk, because they have so little time to enjoy a social life.

Everyone needs adequate rest to relieve the stress that builds up in the workplace. If companies shortened working hours, I believe they would find staff taking fewer sick days. They would also find employees being more enthusiastic about their work.

Hong Kong needs to attract capable and talented specialists in a variety of fields to help with our long-term development. Whether or not they come and stay will depend on them having a good work-life balance.

Some people may claim that shortening working hours lowers productivity and makes a company less competitive, but working such long hours does not make a person more productive.

By and large, a company gains by providing a good working environment for employees.

Lau Kwok-piu, Kwun Tong

I wonder if those 26.9 per cent of survey respondents who said they would be willing to leave Hong Kong to achieve a better work-life balance have had experience working overseas.

I don't have much to complain about here in Hong Kong, with my 51/2-day, 50-hour week, plus occasional dinner appointments.

However, on many occasions I have had to work overseas and, especially in those countries which are geographically much larger than Hong Kong, I lost almost all my leisure time. Customers visiting our office always wanted to complete deals quickly to save time and money.

All my spare time was spent rushing around to get documents prepared, having meetings which would overrun into the evening, organising group entertainments and working to tight schedules.

You also have to deal with cultural differences and a language barrier.

Whenever I come back to work in the Hong Kong office, I do not mind working overtime because I am in a familiar cultural environment and everything is more flexible.

Pang Chi-ming, Sheung Shui

Should all products declare their trans-fat content?

I think trans-fat content should be declared on the packages of all products.

Nowadays, people are more concerned about their health. Because of problems of obesity, greater emphasis is being placed on the need for a healthy diet. There are so many snacks now available for sale. When I buy one, I would like to know the ingredients, including the trans-fat.

It is impossible to stop your children eating snacks, but at least if there is proper labelling parents can compare the different products and choose a healthier snack for their children. If the trans-fat content is shown, this makes it easier for parents to decide which snack to buy.

Consumers have a right to know what they are eating, therefore it is time for food producers to be responsible and make clear the trans-fat content.

Sandy Cheung, Kowloon Bay

On other matters...

Being a child, I know children get depressed because of the pressure they are under from their parents and at school.

At school they often get depressed over their academic results.

As many people are aware, Hong Kong is a very competitive city. Students of low ability who do not do well in exams are often looked down on by their fellow pupils and scolded by their parents. As a result, they feel depressed.

Parents should not put their children under so much pressure. There is nothing wrong with stress, but not too much stress. We are under so much pressure from exams and homework, our parents should not add to that pressure.

Andy Chan Ka-ho, Sha Tin