No profits are made from fuel clause charge
I refer to Ian Watson's letter (''Surcharge' took back subsidy', August 7) on the fuel clause charge in Hongkong Electric's electricity bills.
The fuel clause charge has nothing to do with the government's year-long electricity subsidy. The charge only reflects the difference in the cost of standard fuel and the actual fuel cost of the year. As fuel prices have gone up drastically in the past few years, a charge has been in place since 2005.
Prior to that, the difference was reflected in the form of a rebate to customers. This adjustment mechanism has been in operation for decades.
Hongkong Electric adjusted the charge from 10.5 cents per unit of electricity in 2008 to 25.4 cents in 2009 from January 1, 2009 because coal prices have increased substantially. The reference coal price in mid-2008 was almost four times that of mid-2007. The fuel clause charge adjustment is normally reviewed at year end and intended for an average charge throughout the year, hence there has been no mid-year adjustment in 2009.
The fact that Mr Watson's bill showed 18.19 cents per unit in January 2009 is because his January bill covered electricity consumption between two meter reading dates in December 2008 and January 2009 and was therefore calculated on a pro-rata basis using both the old (2008) and new (2009) rates.
Fuel prices have indeed gone down from the very high levels reached during 2008. We will certainly take this as well as other factors into consideration when conducting our annual tariff review later in the year to determine the tariff level for 2010.
For those in need as mentioned by Mr Watson, Hongkong Electric has a concessionary tariff scheme for four categories of customers - elderly, disabled, single parents and the unemployed. Successful applicants can receive a 60 per cent discount for the first 200 units of electricity consumed in a month. Applications can be made to designated member agencies of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
Electricity tariffs are set in accordance with the terms stipulated in the scheme of control agreement and under close government monitoring.
The fuel clause charge reflects the actual fuel cost in the long run and will not form part of Hongkong Electric's profits. Any differences between the amount charged and amount chargeable will go to the Fuel Clause Recovery Account. There is no question of us reaping extra revenue as suggested.
Mimi Yeung, general manager (public affairs), Hongkong Electric Holdings
Angered by East Rail changes
I wish to express my dismay over the plan by the MTR Corporation to curtail East Rail services at Hung Hom from Monday.
Passengers from the northern and central parts of the New Territories seeking to travel to Hong Kong Island already have a difficult enough time because of the long walk between Tsim Sha Tsui East and Tsim Sha Tsui stations. But at least there is only one change.
Now we will have to get off at Hung Hom, switch platforms to change trains, travel one short stop, then still have the long walk to Tsim Sha Tsui station.
This is so troublesome that many will consider changing instead at Kowloon Tong and then again at Mong Kok. There will be the same number of changes but they will be much more convenient.
Kowloon Tong is already very busy at peak hours, and the situation can only deteriorate if hundreds, perhaps thousands, are forced to change their route.
If one compares the passenger volume and population density along East Rail and West Rail, this is a ridiculous decision.
It is to the detriment of the majority of passengers who have been loyal to East Rail in the past and who now have to consider alternative means of transport to get to their destination.
Edith Wong, Tai Po
HK culture's rudderless ship
Daryl R. Goldby has very kindly explained to us plebs what a conductor's function is ('Conductor's role is obvious', August 6).
Perhaps your correspondent is too young to have caught the rhetorical nuances and philosophical overtones of the question posed by the Home Affairs minion to the Asian Youth Orchestra (''What's a conductor, why do you need one?'', August 4). It is obvious that it represented the rudderless ship we call Hong Kong culture (to continue with Mr Goldby's maritime theme of a ship without power) as it sails towards the treacherous reefs of West Kowloon.
The Asian Youth Orchestra is a significant part of both our cultural present and future and its fans will hopefully fill seats in the cultural hub.
Anders G. Nelsson, Fo Tan
Asian success is widespread
The debate over the importance of English to the future of Hong Kong is one of the more interesting series of letters to appear in these columns recently.
Sadly, people are taking sides along racial lines and in many cases these are emotional arguments rather than logical statements of fact. No matter if it is hatred of the colonial era or national pride, Cantonese does not seem poised to become an international business language standard in this or any millennium.
Putonghua may get there some day but that remains to be seen. Few letters have been as outrageous as the one from Victor Ho ('Differing views on the importance of English in Hong Kong', August 8), who lives in San Francisco. Presumably English played some role in his finding employment there.
If Asians do not find success in American corporations [as he claims], please explain Charles Wang of Computer Associates, Jerry Yang of Yahoo, Andrea Jung of Avon, John Chen of Sybase, Robert Nakasone of Toys 'R' Us, and the thousands of other Asians who have enjoyed success in the US, and who were not walking around with the giant chip on the shoulder that Mr Ho has.
Steve Schechter, Sai Kung
Drug testing a political move
The drug-testing scheme for schools is an ill-conceived plan.
I believe Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen supported it to boost his sagging approval rating. The government is determined to force this upon the stakeholders despite all the doubts and problems raised.
It joins a list of failed government initiatives, including mother-tongue based instruction in schools. This was more about officials scoring points, rather than listening to critics who pointed out the problems associated with this scheme.
Officials feel critics of such schemes are working against the interests of Hong Kong people.
Virginia Yue, Tsuen Wan
In his letter ('Customers carry HSBC', August 10) Gareth Jones rightly asks about HSBC's arbitrary and excessive service charges.
Consider this notice in Business Banking Online: 'Please note that Business Internet Banking inactive service charge will become effective from 1 May 2009. A fee of HK$200 is applicable to those Business Internet Banking profiles without any logon for a designated period as determined by the Bank from time to time.'
Let me get this straight, HSBC is tacking on a service charge for not using a service? I should send the bank a bill for all the services they offer that I don't use.
Randall van der Woning, Tai Po