PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2008, 12:00am

Drastic changes needed to save environment

Martin Brinkley says that, 'plastic bag manufacturers, instead of whingeing with their fingers in the dyke, should read the writing on the wall' ('Anti-plastic bag levy lobby must learn to live in the 21st century', July 29).

Banning plastic bags is the equivalent of putting your finger in the dyke, while ignoring rising water levels that are pouring over the top. A plastic bag ban is a placebo designed to fool people and convince them they are making a difference. Meanwhile it is business as usual for the government and our monolithic corporations, notably our supermarkets, transport and food sectors, the construction lobby and tycoons with multiple jet airliners.

Ban excess packaging, styrofoam and lunchboxes. Encourage good building practices, switch all commercial vehicles to liquefied petroleum gas and ban the 350,000 private cars that inflict direct pollution into the air. Cars lead a purely reactive and clueless government to build more roads for a mode of transport that is communally divisive and will soon be obsolete. Never mind the costs. This might, if we're lucky, engage the whole community in demanding and working for a better environment where pollution is not killing 7,000 people every year. How many plastic bags are killing people?

The alternative? Take up the fiddle and watch, with thinly disguised glee, an egotistical form of life that has no concept of its own insignificance fade into extinction. The whole paradigm has to change. A few less plastic bags whether reused or not won't stop the inexorable slide to disaster.

Kevin McBarron, Central

Officials want to compromise

Many reporters had not expected the central government to block sensitive websites at the Games press centre in the Olympic Village. It seemed to journalists to be a contravention of press freedom.

In Beijing, however, it is as normal as a traffic jam.

Given that track record some people might be surprised that Beijing has not stopped foreign journalists having access to even more websites.

Some have argued that the reason they have not blocked more sites is because of the technical difficulties involved, with some servers located outside the mainland.

Yet, it seems to be able to control access to information to the country's 1.3 billion population on a regular basis.

It may well be that what is happening with the Olympics, reflects a change of attitude and that the central authorities no longer want to have complete control over information flow on the mainland.

I get the impression that they want to loosen their hold, to some extent, but are cautious about how far they should go.

For example officials from the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games appeared conciliatory following scuffles between police and Hong Kong reporters during ticket sales for the Games. I think the government's attitude is changing, but it still has a long way to go.

I do not think there should be any overreaction to the arrangements during the Olympics.

We should see the Games as a milestone on the road to improvements on the mainland.

Eric Wong, Hung Hom

Levy should be abolished

The suspension of the foreign domestic helpers levy has raised a number of issues.

The government urged employers not to prematurely terminate helpers' contracts. Labour leaders called for the levy to continue to help with the retraining of local people. Some even questioned the legality of suspending the levy.

Some employers will try to adjust the start of new contracts to after the start of the levy suspension on August 1 and the start of the following contract to get almost four years' suspension.

This will cause havoc for employees.

I believe the levy should be abolished, especially given the present economic conditions. Domestic helpers' wages should return to the level they were at before the levy was imposed, to help them cope with inflation. New sources of funding should be found to help with retraining.

As an interim solution the levy suspension should cover all contracts, current and future, over a two-year period.

Computers can be used to make the necessary pro-rata calculations.

If in order to make some of the changes I have described, the government has to work with legislators, then it should do so.

When rates were suspended for property owners, the policy was implemented without any difficulties by our administration.

K. Ho, Ho Man Tin

Plea for level playing field

The whole scheme regarding the levy on foreign domestic helpers is flawed.

Has the government ever done anything to alleviate the plight of employers of foreign helpers?

It only seems to care about retraining local workers. Yet, local domestic helpers cannot meet our needs.

They will only work a few hours a day and cost more than foreign domestic helpers. Employers of foreign helpers have paid the levy, but we have seen no benefits.

Why should we have to contribute to the retraining of local workers?

Why doesn't the government charge a levy on the hiring of all foreign workers, not just domestic helpers, given that the levy is supposed to retrain workers in a number of fields?

It is time for the government to understand the needs of Hong Kong people who are suffering from the effects of inflation and do something about that.

Jenny Lam, Pok Fu Lam

New rules lead to more work

Our government has been trying to streamline its operations, reducing civil servants' hours of work but increasing the level of efficiency.

However, with its recent package of measures to help people cope with inflation, it is putting more pressure on the Immigration Department, consulates and employment agencies, as some employers and domestic helpers enter into an unnecessary round of renegotiating their contracts.

The government could have simply waived the levy for four years.

Now with disputes over contracts, airfares and deferred payments, we could end up with more cases being heard at labour tribunals.

D. Kamlesh, Tsim Sha Tsui

MTR congestion a real problem

I have concerns about the service being provided by the MTR Corporation.

On Sunday, when I was travelling on the MTR, there were so many passengers that I had to wait a few minutes before a train was free that I could board.

It was so crowded it was difficult to stand in a comfortable position.

To make matters worse, visitors from the mainland were boarding with their luggage and showed no consideration for other passengers.

I think the MTRC must now consider increasing the frequency of its service during peak hours at stations which get very crowded.

There must be measures it can implement as overcrowding is becoming a problem during busy periods.

Cheng Shun-yin, Sheung Shui