Tsang should make U-turn on ill-conceived light-bulb initiative

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2009, 12:00am

Your editorial ('Bulb saga shows Tsang is politically in the dark', October 17) says Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah has been quick to claim ownership of the light-bulb-voucher initiative.

However, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has been shown by this affair to be politically tone deaf.

Indeed, during the administration's top-level deliberations on the contents of the policy address, Mr Tsang should have been aware of the potential conflict of interest and the fallout that would follow, given that his son's father-in-law owns a company which is already in a strong market position and will benefit directly from the scheme.

As Mr Yau has admitted that his bureau was the originator of the light-bulb-voucher initiative, it is not conducive, at least for the time being, to simply lay the blame on Mr Tsang.

Rather, the environment minister owes the public a detailed explanation of how such an ill-conceived policy initiative was evolved.

As the light-bulb saga continues, Mr Yau's poorly thought-out voucher gimmick, which has been hastily adopted by Mr Tsang and that targets almost 2.5 million households in the city, is evidently causing his boss a great deal of embarrassment and is politically damaging.

Some government policies are pushed out with particular business sectors bound to gain from them, but at the expense of the public. The Mandatory Provident Fund is a case in point.

Your editorial calls the voucher initiative a 'targeted cash handout'.

However, the fact that the recipients of the vouchers have to pay back what they get, through an increased tariff on their electricity bills of an additional 0.5 to 0.6 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed in 2010, while the targeted light bulbs may not even be wanted or needed, makes it more of a joke than a cash handout.

But why does our government want us to spend HK$100 on such long-lasting but mercury-filled light bulbs, when most people who wanted to save on their electricity bills have already had such light bulbs, fluorescent tubes or LED lights installed in their homes?

The mercury-filled light bulbs currently available in the city are either too bright or too dim to light up the place when they are fitted to existing bulb holders.

That can be detrimental to people's eyesight and is an inherent health risk, particularly with older people.

Also, as these light bulbs contain mercury they pose more of a risk to the environment and people's health.

Such bulbs must be handled more carefully than other types to prevent breakage and when they are disposed of.

The government should scrap this silly initiative from Mr Yau altogether.

Alex Hung, Mong Kok