PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am

What do you think is a fair flagfall for taxis?

The question probably shouldn't focus on 'fairness', but rather on 'profitability' for the taxi drivers.

Would an increase in flagfall really result in profitability for them?

I wonder if they have factored in the possible falling passenger numbers and, therefore, a drop in revenue. Remember the law of 'diminishing marginal returns'?

An increase in flagfall passes the burden to the consumers while not necessarily providing profits for the taxi drivers. This is not a win-win situation.

Yes, oil prices are high and are increasing. But have the taxi drivers looked at the tax on oil? It is almost 80 per cent.

Given that the Hong Kong government is working with a surplus of billions of dollars, perhaps a major tax reduction on oil would help not only the taxi trade, but also the other forms of public transport, like buses and minibuses, which are also increasing their fares?

Again, rising costs are being passed on to consumers. With a major reduction in the cost of fuel, the operators can make a better profit.

They will not need to increase their fares (or better yet, they can afford to reduce fares) and that would make for happier consumers. Wouldn't this be a win-win situation for all?

Jenny Wai, Causeway Bay

What do you think about concreting the footpath near Big Wave Bay?

As is too often the case in Hong Kong, the matter of paving over trails in country parks is presented by government officials as 'either/or', where the choice appears to be obvious: either we care for safety, or we don't; either we protect slopes from sliding, or we don't.

The love of nature or beauty is presented as somehow incompatible with public safety and well-being.

But this is not the case. Missing from this presentation is the question of how these improvements are implemented.

Unfortunately, in Hong Kong the 'how' usually involved concrete and metal railings, 'practical' solutions which are applied regardless of the location and without any aesthetic consideration.

Comfortable, engineered trails are common in many natural parks around the world, but they are designed to blend in with the scenery, using appropriate materials such as indigenous crushed stone and wooden planks.

Here such projects seem to be designed by the installing contractor with the goal of minimising cost and maintenance.

Yes, doing it right will cost more. But it's hard to see why a government with a projected budget surplus this financial year of more than HK$100 billion can't spend a few million more dollars to keep the beauty of our natural treasures.

Oren Tatcher, Sheung Wan

At what age is it okay to leave children home alone?

I think that as 12 is recognised as the initial stage of adolescence, this is a suitable age to be left alone.

Generally at this age a person makes the transition from child to adolescent.

At this age they are learning to become more independent and do not have to rely on their parents so much to solve their problems.

They can do the housework and are aware of the possible risks involved in being left home alone. They understand how to avoid domestic accidents.

However, even though such young people are more mature, they should not be left alone frequently by their parents.

Parents will always have a responsibility to keep an eye on their children.

Maggie Chan Yee-ki, Ngau Tau Kok

I believe children can probably take care of themselves from the age of 11.

By this age they have more self-discipline and, most of the time, are well behaved.

At that age they are mature enough to know what things they should not play with in the home, because they can be dangerous. They will probably know when to have meals and can probably make simple snacks like sandwiches and instant noodles. Even at 11, some young people will finish their own homework by themselves.

However, it is difficult to generalise and to assume that every child at age 11 is capable of taking care of themselves. There are obviously variations in the capacity of different children to develop self-management skills.

Some are already very mature at an early age, while others may still behave like children.

Parents should, therefore, be flexible when deciding to leave their children at home alone.

It is up to parents to train their children to be more independent and learn to take care of themselves.

For example, they could send their children to some kind of camp.

Lew Wai-leng, Shun Lee

On other matters...

I first travelled to Hong Kong from Sydney in 1997. My first port of call on each trip has always been The Peak. There are few views to compare with it.

On New Year's Day my wife and I made the pilgrimage to The Peak with great expectations. The sky was blue and it was just a perfect day. We and our cameras were poised to get a bird's eye view of one of the most exciting cities in the world and the best thing was, it wasn't going to cost us a cent.

As we neared the lookout, I noticed a queue. Then in one spilt second our pent-up excitement vanished.

There in front of us was a turnstyle. Yes, you guessed it; someone in their infinite wisdom had come up with the idea of charging people HK$20 to see the view of Hong Kong.

After some debate we decided to pay up. So there we were on the summit of Hong Kong looking down on her in all her majestic splendour when suddenly I heard a voice: 'Could you please move.'

A photographer, who had set up a business on the summit, wanted to take a picture of some tourists who had paid to have their picture taken.

I looked at him and stood my ground. After all, I had just paid to get to the summit and I felt that was bad enough. Really, this was the last straw.

The spirit of Christmas has already been eroded thanks to commercialism, and the Star Ferry was demolished before you could say 'Jack Robinson'. Is the view from The Peak now only limited to the rich? Low-income earners and people who receive 'fruit money' forget it; visiting The Peak is now an icon from the past.

It will be some time before I return to The Peak.

Peter Coroneos, Tseung Kwan O