New transport subsidy is a waste of money
I am angry that the government should have even proposed a travel subsidy, let alone extended the freebies to more working people on low incomes.
The scheme was implemented last year to help people on low incomes seek employment in the city centre when travelling costs would take a big chunk of their earnings.
Now the scheme is extended to low-income workers [in all districts in Hong Kong] irrespective of actual transport-related costs. This is an abuse and waste of taxpayers' money offering these families sweeteners when most of these people already get subsidies such as public housing and other freebies.
It would have been better if the government spent this amount on all permanent residents over 18 in the workforce. This would cover the unemployed as well, people who cannot find work and get no government subsidies. I cannot understand the logic of legislators who have supported this subsidy. Are they just trying to get more votes?
Permanent residents who cannot find work in the labour market and who are not entitled to any government subsidies will certainly feel discriminated against. It is a sorry state indeed that the current administration should give away unwarranted benefits to a certain section of society.
Officials should not drain the coffers. A prudent policy with regard to fiscal reserves has served us well in good times and bad.
Joseph Fan, Ma On Shan
Underprivileged need more help
There has been heated debate about how the government should spend its fiscal surplus. I believe it should be spent on the underprivileged.
Firstly, we all know that the wealth gap is getting wider. Although the state of our economy has improved, not all Hongkongers are able to benefit from this. Many people on low incomes are still forced to do two jobs so they can have enough to get by.
This is a problem the government should tackle as soon as possible.
People are also suffering because of inflation. This is leading to increased prices of commodities and it makes it more difficult for people on low incomes as some things they need become unaffordable.
The government must pay more attention to the underprivileged.
Carlie Chan, Wong Tai Sin
Light pollution must be curbed
Many shops and malls use flashing neon lights to try to attract customers.
This creates light pollution and causes problems at night for nearby residents.
People should be able to relax and get a good night's sleep. Our homes are places for us to rest.
Some of these lights stay on all night and this can make it difficult for people to sleep.
Even if they put up thick curtains in their bedrooms, they can still be disturbed by strong lights.
Because of the brightness of these lights in urban areas, it is difficult to see the stars in the night sky.
It is high time steps were taken to deal with these problems.
Shop owners should think about other people and turn off these lights at night.
They are showing no consideration for the needs of nearby residents.
They may think they are making their shop more attractive for customers, but they are causing misery to residents in the area.
The government should take action through legislation. It should force shops to switch off those lights at night that are not needed.
Shop owners should co-operate with the administration in an effort to reduce the city's levels of light pollution during the day and at night.
Hyidi Li, Kwun Tong
Deal with E coli rise in harbour
For the past decade, levels of pollution have been dropping in Victoria Harbour. But last month it was reported that pollution was on the rise.
An expensive sewage treatment project has been deemed a success so people were surprised that, out of the blue, a surge in E coli was reported. The reason still appears to be a mystery.
In the past, Hong Kong was notorious for its poor water quality. It was not unusual to see refuse like styrofoam boxes and plastic bags floating in Victoria Harbour. Chemical waste made the water even dirtier.
The harbour is important to Hong Kong. We all want to see clean water so we can enjoy it. Of course, the harbour is also very important to our tourist industry.
When the water quality improved, it became a more desirable attraction for our visitors. I hope the government can take the necessary action and find out why bacteria levels have increased.
Wong Yiu-cheung, Tsuen Wan
Be wary of slimming deals
Police are investigating a slimming firm over allegations that it used rigged scales.
The Consumer Council had received complaints about the firm.
Of course, if the allegations turn out to be true, such practices are unacceptable.
I think the government has to pay closer attention to slimming firms and the sales tactics they use in order to promote their slimming packages to potential customers.
People also have a responsibility to study the packages on offer with far greater care.
If, for example, there is an offer of a deposit being refunded if they reach a certain weight target, they should read the terms and conditions carefully before signing any contract.
Also, they should be wary if, after signing such a contract, they are then asked by the slimming club to spend additional sums of money.
Lee Sze-wing, Tsuen Wan
Extending flu jabs a bad idea
Since the arrival of the winter peak for flu, the government has been strongly advising people to get vaccinated.
But the vaccination rate is low and some senior doctors have suggested that the government implement a universal vaccination programme to minimise the number of deaths ('Flu deaths show need to boost vaccination rate', February 14). However, I have concerns about this suggestion.
First of all, it would be time-consuming to ensure all Hong Kong citizens were vaccinated and would involve complicated procedures such as booking.
By the time the whole process was completed, the peak period may have passed, rendering it pointless.
There are other ways to protect the health of citizens, such as strictly monitoring the hygiene of markets to prevent the flu virus spreading. Also, through announcements, the government can ensure alertness is increased.
I do not think senior doctors have considered the fact that such a universal programme will be ineffective over a short period of time and I would not support such a plan.
Michael Yau, Tai Wai
Octopus can get rid of PR spin
It seems that once again a large corporation is maintaining the usual practice when it responds to any complaints from the public.
The letter from Octopus ('Octopus system is working', February 24) in response to Tommy Hui's letter ('Update Octopus card system', February 18), follows the tried and tested formula of ignoring the complaint from the individual and reassuring all its business partners that all is well and that it has the interests of all at heart.
Well, the record of Octopus does not tally with that statement. Although it is a wonderfully convenient instrument, there have been, and still are, some problems and incorrect operational issues.
One of our legislators also raises concerns regarding Octopus' operational procedure and business practices.
Perhaps Octopus would agree to breaking the PR spin mould and, through these columns, actually answer the questions posed. Maybe it is concerned with the possible domino effect which will force other large companies to address the complaints and concerns of the end user, who spends the money, rather than the company that just makes the money.
Clifford A. Bury, Yuen Long
Few affordable school options
Thanks to government initiatives aimed at increasing parental choice, Hong Kong parents can now choose from a greater array of schools than a decade ago.
However, to what extent does your average parent really have a choice? Attendance at the two categories of schools - private independent schools and direct subsidy schools - comes at a hefty price and scholarships are elusive. For English-speaking children, the schools run by the English Schools Foundation once offered an affordable option to many but, with the capping of the ESF's subvention a decade ago, school fees have started to rise.
In the meantime, government schools such as King's College and Queen's College that are popular with parents and free have been persuaded to cut their Form One classes.
If one accepts that education oils the wheels of social mobility, Hong Kong's future looks bleak.
The haves will hold the better access to education and, as a result, the better prospects. The have-nots for the first time in the city's recent history have few avenues to better themselves and create the transformational successes that have made Hong Kong a legend.
Sarah Rigby, North Point