Small-house policy is in disarray
Perhaps it is time that the Lands Department moved into the 21st century and started taking a holistic approach to the decisions made within its department as to who can build and where.
Hoi Ha is facing a similar situation to the village highlighted in the report ('Village parking abuses 'rampant'', February 25), with a recently posted application plonking a house in the middle of a pathway, showing no consideration for its neighbours, car parking or access to existing and future houses.
If the small-house policy is to be implemented successfully, then village design has to become a part of the grand scheme and we can no longer allow a house to be built wherever there is sufficient square footage to accommodate one.
Without a village planning scheme in place, the department is contributing to the lowering of the quality of the environment for the existing residents and creating a slum for the future.
Hoi Ha, as I suspect is the case with many villages in the New Territories, needs all stakeholders to come together and agree where development should and should not take place.
This could mean doing a land swap.
It certainly should include consideration of the existing marine park, existing inhabitants, car parking, and where future development is possible, while maintaining open spaces within the village itself and protecting the overall appearance of the village and quality of life for its inhabitants.
A. Davy, Sai Kung
Butterflies get priority over people
I refer to the editorial ('Population policy key to city's future', February 27) and Paul Yip Siu-fai's article ('Greying population could leave our economy tottering', February 27). Both pieces call on the government to fulfil its pledge to formulate a population policy.
It does not need an expert to say that such a policy must go hand in hand with a plan for building a corresponding infrastructure that includes such areas as land and housing.
The problem we have been facing over the past decade is that the government is hamstrung in its ability to draw up a land policy, given the powerful sector in our midst that fights to give priority to preserving the habitats of butterflies and dolphins instead of giving equal opportunities to humans and animals.
Thanks to this sector, land created by reclamation has shown a significant decline.
The land supply situation has got worse in the name of conservation and heritage.
Pressure is relentlessly put on the fragile government to turn privately owned buildings into declared monuments when it is thought these buildings, that are just decades old, are to be redeveloped.
Anyone who thinks you can formulate a population policy against such a background must be joking. Sorry, post-1980s citizens, but you must struggle with the most expensive housing in the world.
Lai Shing-kin, Quarry Bay
No sympathy for property agencies
I refer to your article ('Market curbs 'forcing property agencies to shut'', February 27) on the closure of 300 property agent outlets in the past year. I have no sympathy for this industry in Hong Kong. It acts strictly as a middleman, does not make any meaningful contribution to society, and is often a tool of the property developers.
Young people are enticed to become agents because they can earn large commissions just showing apartments, but in a downturn end up jobless with no marketable skills.
Instead of crying foul over government regulations putting its own members out of work, the industry should consider its impact on smaller businesses which are being squeezed out of good retail sites because agencies are willing to pay premium rents due to the large amount of lucrative transactions they can generate out of a small space.
If you look at Robinson Road and Caine Road, they have been completely taken over by agents, with some companies like Centaline and Midland Realty opening three outlets on the same road.
In this area, residents have lost an ironmonger, a newsagent, a cafe, two dry cleaners and clothes alteration shops and this is extremely inconvenient. Some of these businesses had served the local community for many years.
The government should be protecting these enterprises and restricting property agents from opening up retail store fronts by restricting them to office buildings.
Lastly, regarding the complaints over the provision of 'saleable area', this is a long-overdue reform, where the agents have colluded with property developers over decades to deceive consumers and inflate the price per square foot.
Property Agencies Association chairman Tony Kwok Tak-leung has quite a cheek when complaining about having to pay the government for inquiries to find the real area, when this is a service that they should have provided from the outset. If all new developments had provided these figures in the past, then there would have been no need to go to the Rating and Valuation Department to obtain data.
Bernard Kwan, Mid-Levels
Foster close links with mainland
Hong Kong's economy has developed at a fast pace, but it now risks being overtaken by the mainland. Our government cannot ignore this challenge or we will be left behind.
Even though the SAR is an international financial centre, there is more that could be done to create a more favourable environment for the business sector.
For example, it should see if policies need changing to ensure even greater economic freedom and could start by lowering the present level of profit tax.
We have a lot of talented people who could thrive in the financial sector, but the government needs to invest more in training.
We can make great strides forward if we build on our strengths.
We must establish closer links with the mainland. Investment and tourists from there are crucial to the economy. The government should try and foster harmonious relations between mainlanders and Hongkongers and defuse recent tensions, otherwise we could see a substantial loss of revenue from across the border.
The administration should also offer subsidies to Hong Kong firms wanting to tap the mainland market.
I hope the next executive and his administration can utilise our valuable resources and try to take Hong Kong into a new era.
Ho Chun-kuen, Sha Tin
Build care home in each district
Cases of elderly couples struggling to stay together expose shortcomings in Hong Kong's care home system. Many elderly couples face separation.
This is a tragic state of affairs as they may have been married for many years and see each other as soul mates.
The allocation of resources in society is unfair when it comes to elderly welfare and this problem will get worse as Hong Kong has an ageing population.
The government has to find ways to improve old people's living standards. For example, it could build at least one public elderly home in each of the 18 districts, which would make it easier for elderly couples to be placed in the same home.
The elderly are often seen as a burden to society, but we should remember the contributions they made to Hong Kong's development during their working lives. We should be thankful and show our respect.
Helen Ma, Tsuen Wan
Convention centre must expand
I think it would be the right time to plan for the expansion of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
In terms of size, the convention centre has dropped in Asia in the rankings.
This is a serious problem for people attending events and it affects our economy.
If we lose a major exhibition which chooses a larger venue, then we lose trade.
This could damage Hong Kong's reputation, and so the convention centre must expand.
Chan Tsun-ho, Sha Tin
Musharraf unjustly accused
I refer to the report ('Pakistan will ask Interpol to arrest Musharraf', February 22).
It is widely known that when former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Pakistan in December 2007, it was Pervez Musharraf as president at the time who asked the British government to send a special team of experts from Scotland Yard to investigate the killing of Ms Bhutto.
They found there was no wrongdoing on the part of the government of Pakistan, so how could Mr Musharraf be blamed for 'his failure to prevent the assassination'? Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari is wasting Interpol's time with this request.
K. M. Nasir, Mid-Levels