PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2012, 12:00am


Invisible hand holds less water

In the 1970s, free market advocate Milton Friedman referred to Hong Kong as the best example of a laissez-faire economy.

Then in 2006, he voiced disappointment over Hong Kong's decision to give up the 'positive non-interventionism' approach.

But, can a free market solve our social problems?

In terms of housing, the influx of non-locals, especially mainland Chinese, has inflated housing costs significantly. Those flat owners are not interested in coming to Hong Kong to add to our labour force, neither are they interested in creating business ventures here. They simply come to Hong Kong for shopping, entertainment, dining, or wealth management services.

In other words, they are coming to enjoy the limited resources in Hong Kong, pushing the equilibrium price further up.

This is a growing, and changing trend. In previous decades, people were interested in either supplying labour or creating jobs when they migrated to Hong Kong.

Then there is the general price level. It is not unusual for rents to double, forcing tenants to close down their businesses to be replaced by stores with larger profit margins. Although this is the optimal condition for efficient resource allocations, this is not what society wants. Society does not want to see Tsim Sha Tsui or Causeway Bay full of jewellery shops, luxury goods stores, and no cha chaan teng.

Various measures had been taken to cool down the property market, a minimum wage has been introduced and one-off relief measures have been implemented to fight inflation and a recession. What would conditions be like without intervention?

No policy will work indefinitely and what worked well in the past is no guarantee for the future.

Changes are definitely needed. At the end of the day, economics remains only a part of the story.

Chan Ka-wai, Ma On Shan

Insults amount to flawed tactic

Rachel Tsang ('No Bite', April 5) correctly points out that cultural traditions, such as the eating of shark fin by Chinese people, are impossible to stop through campaigns that insult the tradition and people. That the younger generation may be more easily swayed is to be expected. It is a hallmark of youth to challenge convention.

But older people generally take pride in traditions passed from generation to generation over centuries. They accept that culture and tradition are the social glue that binds those sharing a common culture together as a people. Insults do little more than harden resolve to fight back.

Shark fin and Chinese people are not the only environmental arena in which international attacks on traditional uses of wildlife is an accepted protocol.

The campaigns against commercial whaling by the Japanese, and against commercial sealing by Arctic peoples, also employ the same flawed strategy.

So why fight campaigns with a culturally insulting strategy that ensures you cannot win? One obvious answer may be that the benefits from the conflict outweigh the costs of its resolution.

It is instructive to pose the scenario: what if China stopped eating shark fin, Japan stopped whaling and Arctic people stopped killing seals overnight? The conflicts would cease immediately, but so, too, would the donations that support the campaigns, and the salaries of the paid campaigners.

Charlie Lim, Marine Products Association

No room for doubt about evolution

I was shocked by the misinformation in Geoffrey Allen's letter ('Evolution is still just a conjecture', April 11).

Mr Allen claimed that 'now Darwinian evolution is still a conjecture (not a theory)', 'many eminent scientists have grave misgivings about the whole subject of macro-evolution' and 'some of the world's greatest physicists are realising that even the number of years back to the big bang are not sufficient to explain away Darwin's conjecture'.

Evolution, now both an established fact and a theory well supported by so much evidence, is closed to reasonable doubt like gravitation or relativity.

Today, 130 years after Charles Darwin's death, magazines like Nature and Science continue to report new findings, new fossils, new DNA evidence and new information that further confirms evolution, and tells us more about the history of life on earth.

We can quote hundreds of articles supporting macro-evolution and the latest findings about how cells evolved, debunking Mr Allen's claim.

The Interacademy Panel, a global network of 104 world's science academies, representing the overwhelming majority of leading scientists, issued a statement in 2006 affirming the fact of evolution and supporting the teaching of the subject.

I challenge Mr Allen to name just one or two articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals or any practising evolutionary biologists that support his claims.

Virginia Yue, Hong Kong Concern Group for Science Education

Don't blow whistle on complainant

It is absolutely wrong for the media to speculate on who made a complaint about Sun Hung Kai Properties to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Whistleblowers should be given full confidentiality if Hong Kong wants to maintain a fearless society.

I could never have imagined in the past that the ICAC would have more power than the tycoons in Hong Kong, but today, with the change in government, I feel we are going to get a more righteous society and there will be zero tolerance for misconduct by the leaders and the wealthy. We need more truth in our society.

Tim Nandwani, Mid-Levels

Urban areas deserve exemption

The Development Bureau and the Buildings Department have introduced a registration process granting a five-year exemption period to owners of New Territories properties with unauthorised structures, pending a safety inspection.

Yet no registration scheme has been offered to owners of urban properties with unauthorised structures. The registration process is a good solution, as an authorised person must assess the safety of the structure prior to exemption. But why hasn't this scheme been offered to urban property owners?

Phillip Walker, Wan Chai

Take holistic approach to harbour

It was pleasing to see Winston Chu's letter about the proposed harbour authority ('Habour authority welcome', April 20).

Two things occurred to me immediately.

One was that the authority will need its own heritage officer or office; the other was that the intangible heritage of the harbour needs to be documented and managed along with what is left of the tangible heritage.

Intangible heritage can be everything from Cissy Chu's contribution through to the lifestyles of those still living on sampans, some of whom still rely on the harbour for an income.

I hope a holistic approach will be taken to setting up the harbour authority.

We need to integrate heritage assets into future planning and design, so that they will reflect something of Hong Kong's unique history and cultural identity.

Hilary du Cros, associate professor, Hong Kong Institute of Education

Alarm bell sounds on dementia

Diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome and swine flu have emerged in recent years, demanding public awareness about preventative measures.

But, there is also one long-standing disorder we need to pay more attention to: dementia.

Dementia is a serious loss of cognitive ability in a previously unimpaired person, beyond what might be expected from normal ageing.

The people who suffer from dementia can often grow irritable when they become forgetful, and may take it out on their loved ones.

That can not only put the people around dementia patients in danger, but also generate regret in the dementia patients if they realise who they hurt.

In Hong Kong, the need is clearly growing.

Dementia has overtaken diabetes to move on to the list of the city's top five killers among non-communicable conditions, after cancer, heart diseases, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease.

In 2010, 767 people died from dementia-related diseases in Hong Kong while 522 died from diabetes.

But dementia's toll might actually be higher, because the cause of death is often attributed to other diseases such as pneumonia.

These statistics sound the alarm that we need to raise public awareness about dementia.

In fact, dementia is not a disease but a syndrome caused by a number of brain disorders.

We need to show more concern for dementia patients.

Ken Fung Chun-kit, Kowloon Bay