PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 April, 2010, 12:00am

HK taxi drivers should polish basic skills

I refer to the letter by Rick Weil ('Time to hail our cabbies', April 9). I was glad to read that Mr Weil had good experiences when it came to Hong Kong taxi drivers. When you compare them with countries in South Asia, I agree with him.

However, compared to cities in Asia that Hong Kong likes to compete with and measure itself against (Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo), the service provided here is quite frustrating.

In all my years here I have never met one taxi driver who extended a welcome or said goodbye when getting in or out of his car.

They do not bother to show the slightest reaction that they understand the destination that I have told them.

Rarely do they know the English name of the street or building I ask them to drive me to. Even those drivers who have worked for decades in this job, and who have sat idly for thousands of hours waiting for customers, have not felt any motivation to learn English words such as 'right, left or straight'.

Instead I have had to learn the Cantonese words, or ask my Chinese friends or hotel concierge to write the destination in Chinese on a piece of paper.

I would say around 50 per cent of drivers of red taxis at the airport refuse to drive me to nearby destinations, at least initially.

A taxi ride where a Chinese radio station is playing together with blaring calls from the taxi company's dispatcher and various mobile phone calls from a handful of phones sitting on the dashboard and obstructing the driver's view, is not only unsafe but is an unpleasant trip for me.

I believe some drivers tamper with their seat belt and illegally lock it in a position that keeps the belt loose around their body. For reasons of comfort, these drivers risk their own lives and their passengers' as well.

This certainly does not deserve Mr Weil's suggested 'double fare day'.

It suggests a bi-monthly, compulsory training day for the drivers in location knowledge, basic English language skills as well as manners and customer service. Having a clean car is not enough.

Klaus-B. Jotz, Tung Chung

Cabbies decent and honest

I could not agree more with Rick Weil's letter ('Time to hail our cabbies', April 9).

Earlier this month, I accidentally left my wallet in a cab on my way home.

Before I could even realise my loss, the management office of the building where I lived called to inform me that a cab driver was asking to see me so he could return my wallet.

He accepted my thanks and a small token reward graciously.

I have encountered several instances (some of them are overseas visitors) of friends who have left behind valuables in our taxis and these have always been returned, sometimes at great inconvenience to the taxi drivers who have to backtrack and make inquiries about their passengers' identities at hotels.

Our cabs are cheap, clean, efficient and functional.

I seriously doubt you will find this combination anywhere else.

The 50 cents issue is a bad joke and I cannot fathom people stressing over this ('Cabbies' pockets heavier with 50-cent change', March 27).

Try New York, where the cabbie expects a US$2 tip for an US$8 ride, or Switzerland - where it will cost you HK$300 to cover the distance from Central to Wan Chai - and you will appreciate how good we have it here.

Deepak Mirchandani, Jardine's Lookout

Mongolia needs to exploit riches

The harsh and prolonged winters of last year and this year have caused great suffering for the nomadic herders in Mongolia, many of whom have lost large numbers of livestock.

Some have accumulated heavy debts which they cannot repay, and so it is argued that the government should utilise the country's rich mineral resources.

Exploiting mineral reserves could help the administration to deal with the financial crisis and create job opportunities.

I think the country should make good use of those reserves and get foreign and local firms involved in the mining industry.

Many countries are too dependent on the Middle East for fossil fuels.

This dependency would be reduced if Mongolia tapped into its energy resources.

However, I accept there are drawbacks, as mining damages the environment.

The extraction and refinery processes can cause major pollution problems, including contamination of underground water, trees being felled and animals' habitats destroyed.

The health of the nomadic herders and their livestock near excavation works will be threatened.

Therefore, we have to accept that there are pros and cons to the exploitation of mineral reserves.

Despite the downside I think the country has to go ahead with this mining work as it will help solve its financial problems. The government can enforce regulations requiring mining companies to follow regulations aimed at protecting the environment, and to restore the land once mines are exhausted.

Wong Chung-ming, Tsz Wan Shan

Reduce stress of education

Hong Kong's education system has been criticised for being extremely tough.

As a consequence it is argued that too often students concentrate on rote learning to get higher marks in their exams. However, this can mean they do not get a deeper understanding of the subject they are studying.

Because they know good academic results can lead to better career prospects, many young people attend tuition colleges after school hours. This can prove time-consuming and exhausting.

The stress can get too much for many of them and can actually lead to them failing some subjects.

I would like to see changes in the present education system so that pupils' stress levels are reduced and they are able to enjoy their school years.

Aly Chau, Tseung Kwan O

Much scope for vet science hub

I fully agree with the view expressed by Raymond Ho Chung-tai regarding establishing a veterinary school in Hong Kong ('Make HK centre of veterinary excellence', April 14).

It would be short-sighted to argue that we should not have a vet school just because the demand for qualified vets here is not large. As an education hub we need this college, not just for vocational training, but as a centre of excellence in education and research. The curriculum should cover public as well as animal health.

With dozens of mainland universities offering some kind of veterinary education, the quality of instruction and depth of training varies greatly. Hong Kong should have a veterinary school of the highest standard. There should also be a quota of mainland students.

Think of the impact Hong Kong's excellent education system will have when some of our graduates eventually fill important positions in national agencies such as the State Food and Drug Administration.

Alexander Lai Chi-keung, Kowloon Tong

Talk shows did a good job

I refer to Albert Cheng King-hon's column ('Words of advice', April 10).

As a regular listener to RTHK's Free Voice phone-in programmes, I am inclined to feel that its presenters have done a satisfactory job by giving listeners from every walk of life an ample opportunity to air their views or to redress their grievances. The same may be said of Commercial Radio's Talk Show, formerly compered by Mr Cheng. Yet the arbitrary or radical stance regularly taken dealt a heavy blow to it, causing its final downfall.

It is up to members of the public to decide on the merits and demerits of Commercial Radio.

As regards RTHK, it would be best to hold a referendum to determine whether or not it should continue to operate in the same way as it has been doing so smoothly with little or no public complaint.

Peter Wei, Kwun Tong

Posthumous Bauhinia plea

The story of Wong Fuk-wing, who gave so generously of his time, money and eventually his life, is amply described in your editorial ('When you think of giving, think of Wong Fuk-wing', April 16).

His outstanding deeds ('saving victims of the Yushu earthquake') were truly awe-inspiring, especially considering his ill-health. Let us hope that they will encourage some of the youth of Hong Kong to follow in his footsteps.

I would like to suggest that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen posthumously award him the Grand Bauhinia Medal.

John Wilson, Yau Ma Tei

Five-day week

When Hong Kong's social problems are discussed you often hear people say that the solution is to pass new legislation.

However, this is not always the best way to deal with these problems.

Sometimes it can make a bad situation even worse. Take, for example, the problem of child neglect.

Some of the children come from low-income families where the parents have few skills and are poorly educated.

They might have to work more than one job and are under constant financial pressure. Single-parent families also struggle.

The government should be taking the initiative and come up with measures such as extending the five-day working week scheme for more groups of workers.

Vicky Ho Lai-yi, Sheung Shui