PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 2008, 12:00am

Concerns over mandatory health scheme

I am not convinced by the arguments of Nelson Wong ('Insurance is a vital part of health care', June 18) and Michael Somerville ('Finding the right model', June 20), nor do I think the attack on Darren Mann is justified.

If I remember rightly, Dr Mann merely pointed out that the US health care system is in terrible shape - and one of the reasons is that it is hard to tell the difference between the regulators and the lobbyists ('Private insurance model a prescription for deceit', June 12) .

I would have thought it reasonable to avoid such conflict of interest in Hong Kong and to learn from these errors.

One of the problems in selling the Hong Kong people on the concept of a mandatory scheme is the obvious fact that it costs more than any public alternative and, whereas doctors have sworn an oath to Hippocrates, our businesspeople favour Mammon. Add to this the experience of the Mandatory Provident Fund, which to many feels like being sold into slavery.

Neither Mr Wong nor Mr Somerville mention the people as being actors in the social contract - only the government and the insurance industry are mentioned.

It would, I think, be courteous, even necessary, to include them in future deliberations.

Don Allison, Kowloon Tong

Public interest is the priority

The explanation by Brenda Au, for the director of planning ('Just to clarify on Mega Tower', June 19), is highly unsatisfactory.

Government officials have repeatedly stated that a 1989 Town Planning Board policy allows officials to extend the validation period of old planning approvals, if building plans have been approved. But the bureaucrats have persistently refused to make available to the public the 1989 deliberation of the board on this critical policy issue. It is absurd to suggest that the board can have a 'secret policy' affecting the public yet refuse to allow the public to examine the content, intent and lawfulness of that policy.

The 'minor amendment' in 2004 also required examination. This amendment was carried out by a planning officer who stepped outside the meaning of 'minor' when he inserted a new four-year deadline to replace the original deadline of January 1996, which had expired 12 years previously. This was clearly an attempt to resurrect an obsolete scheme.

On open space, the 5,880 square metres was first zoned in 1968 for open space.

In 1985, the developer offered a new public park of that size on adjoining land in return for permission to build the hotel (1.1 million sq ft) on statutory open space land. The Town Planning Board accepted this and initiated a change of zoning.

However, by 1994, the developer had been allowed to move the goalposts - reducing the public park to 2,030 square metres and using the extra open land to increase the size of the hotel by 55 per cent (to 1.7 million sq ft and 2,000 bedrooms).

It is not unreasonable to ask for an independent inquiry to ascertain what loopholes have allowed this to happen. The public has been deprived of an extensive public park facility badly needed in Wan Chai.

In these circumstances, why are officials arguing in favour of the Mega Tower developer instead of defending the public interest? There is no obligation to issue a land exchange, and the Lands Department in particular should be questioning how the planners have put it in this controversial situation.

It is time for civil servants to recognise that their duty is to safeguard the public interest.

Fan Waugh Fu, Mid-Levels

Taxi drivers can make savings

We sympathise with and support all taxi drivers.

Yet we need to ask some questions. Did taxi driver Cheung Man-hin, interviewed on the way to the airport ('Oil prices hit taxi drivers', June 24), speed - or did he stay within the limit?

When waiting for the return fare - which can involve a wait of up to one hour - did he keep his air conditioner switched on?

Was the ride so smooth - no accelerating up to a stop or intentionally closing the gap between him and the car in front - that there was never any strain on the seat belt?

Was the driver staying at least two seconds back from the vehicle in front and a minimum of two car lengths?

If so, the driver has an understandable complaint.

If not, I hope passengers will tell taxi drivers that we can show them how to save 30 to 50 per cent on fuel just by driving safely and following the law.

We should encourage them to demand that their unions get them fuel monitors in their taxis so they can save money by driving without wasting fuel.

Annelise Connell, Mini Spotters

Scrapping fuel tax is wrong

I cannot believe that our administration is scrapping duty on Euro V diesel just to please a minority of angry vehicle operators.

At the same time, the very same operators allow their drivers to keep thousands of engines idling and waste a vast amount of fuel while polluting our already deteriorating environment.

As long as drivers can afford to idle their engines for hours, the cost of fuel obviously is still too cheap - otherwise, they would start saving at their own end first.

What Hong Kong needs is a strategic environmental vision and policy put into practice now to achieve the kind of quality environment that you find in other countries.

A scrapping of fuel tax without a clear policy is shortsighted. We need laws forcing drivers and operators of heavy vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and switch to the most modern available engine technology to achieve immediate air quality improvements.

Saki A. Chatzichristidis, Kennedy Town

A sorry case of too little, too late

I agree with your editorial ('Government caught napping over hotel saga', June 20).

The Tatami Hampton Hotel in Mong Kok had been facing serious financial problems for some time.

However, the government seems to have been unaware of the court order over an unpaid loan, which led to guests at the hotel being evicted.

Officials did not respond until the next day. They made sincere apologies and offered a belated public-relations remedy.

Questions should be asked about why the Tourism Commission, Tourism Board and Home Affairs Department had not already mapped out contingency plans for a situation like this.

It seems to me that Tourism Commissioner Au King-chi, in reacting to the incident after the event, was merely shedding crocodile tears.

Where was she when the tourists were unceremoniously and unsympathetically ordered to evacuate?

Herbert Fong, Kowloon Bay

Bank slammed

I see the government is bending over backwards to clean up the mess that resulted from the sudden closure of the Tatami Hampton Hotel and the eviction of more than 100 guests.

I'm just curious to know why no one is pointing the finger at the Bank of East Asia, which seized the hotel over an unpaid HK$80 million loan.

It could have at least given the visitors some notice before taking the action that led to them being evicted.

Rennie Marques, Lai Chi Kok