Tax break may not win over couples
The Hong Kong government recognises that we will face problems as a result of the low birth rate and having an ageing population.
Proposals have been put forward to introduce child-friendly employment policies and tax exemptions to encourage more couples to start a family.
Having childcare centres for employees' young children near a company's office would be beneficial to couples and to society in general.
While a tax exemption system would not help the underprivileged, as they do not pay tax, it is still a measure that the government should introduce.
However, these policies on their own are unlikely to lead to an increase in the birth rate.
This is because couples will continue to have other concerns.
Even high-earning couples are choosing not to start a family which would indicate that there are concerns that go beyond the economic factors.
Hong Kong has been beset by a number of social problems, such as the strain put on medical services through the influx of women from the mainland coming here to give birth and worries over education policy.
I believe the problem of a low birth rate can only be dealt with effectively if young couples begin to have faith in Hong Kong and believe it is a society that is suitable for their children as they grow up.
Lai Sin-yi, Sha Tin
Beijing's choice is unacceptable
The Panchen Lama recognised by Beijing, Gyaincain Norbu, is attending a Buddhist event in Hong Kong this week.
However, I am sure Hongkongers would rather see the genuine article appearing in public, namely Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (born April 25, 1989) who was recognised as the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama on May 14, 1995. Unfortunately his whereabouts are unknown, since he disappeared together with his family a short time after his recognition, when aged six.
His appearance in public will be increasingly important as time goes on, as it is the responsibility of the Dalai Lama to recognise the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and vice versa.
It is important that the genuine Panchen Lama is found and enabled to perform his duties, including recognising the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.
Both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are recognised reincarnations, who have continued their work and their mission over many lifetimes and it would be a tragedy to Buddhism, as well as mankind in general, if this chain was destroyed.
In these dangerous times, with more countries believed to possess nuclear weapons and countries like North Korea testing missiles, it may be more critical than ever to have spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama working for the inner peace of mankind and for world peace.
Ken Borthwick, Pok Fu Lam
Eateries can help reduce food waste
The catering industry is opposed to the government's proposed waste charge.
I feel sad that not all stakeholders have agreed with the adoption of this scheme in Hong Kong.
The catering sector believes it would be unfair to charge an eatery for food that customers have left on their plate.
However, I believe action could be taken to alleviate this problem. Restaurants could offer different-sized portions to consumers so they do not waste food.
Despite the views of the industry, I support the implementation of a waste charge, given that our landfills are nearing capacity.
I would also like to see more people embracing recycling of food waste, cans, plastic bags, and electrical appliances.
If we recycle more, we can improve the quality of our lives.
Waste charging programmes and widespread recycling have been effective in Taiwan and Korea.
As a result, there has been a substantial reduction in volumes of waste. These are good examples that Hong Kong can follow.
Ceci Lam Wing-sze, Tsuen Wan
Opposing fines idea for structures
I could not disagree more with the suggestion of my ex-boss, Patrick Lau Lai-chiu, former director of lands, that fines would provide a solution for dealing with illegal structures.
I was very pleased to see that Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has ruled out this proposal.
If an inch is given, a foot will be asked for, and then a foot will become a yard, as evidenced in the progression of the size of the small house allowed under the small-house policy.
From being 'small', 400 sq ft and no more than two storeys, it has risen to 700 sq ft (with balconies projecting beyond that), three storeys and 8.2 metres in height, and now more is demanded.
The Buildings Department is taking action against developments on 'old schedule building' lots granted under the 'block government leases' as the breaches take the development beyond that which is considered exempt under the Buildings Ordinance (Application to the New Territories) Ordinance (Cap 121). But there is also the option open for the Lands Department to take re-entry action in many of those cases for breaches of the conditions of grant in lots granted under the small-house policy.
It is the law, and these conditions, that people simply ignore. How the various representatives of the Heung Yee Kuk and the rural committees can blame the government when they, and anyone who owns a small house, are fully aware of what is permitted and deliberately chose to ignore the same, is beyond belief.
It is not often that I will complement an administrative officer, but Carrie Lam deserves all the praise possible for having the courage to take action which many more before her have not done. Such action is long overdue and one can only hope that full consideration of how to end the small-house policy will follow next.
Allan Hay, Tai Po
Keep water taxis out of harbour
I do not think a water taxi service in Victoria Harbour would be feasible.
There are already a lot of boats and ferries in the harbour and the fuel some of them use releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The ferry services we already have can satisfy demand, so a water taxi would be surplus to requirements.
Also, there are insufficient support facilities at the harbourfront.
Water taxis would need suitable boarding points for passengers, but few of these exist at Victoria Harbour.
If people are seeking a convenient way to cross the harbour, they already have the MTR.
Sean Chiu, Tai Wai