Letters to the Editor, October 31, 2015

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 October, 2015, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 October, 2015, 5:40pm

Blame high rent, not labour costs

I was appalled to read the financial secretary's warning that "soaring" wages for low-skilled jobs like dishwashers need to be monitored because they are making it difficult for business ("HK$12,000 to wash dishes is bad for business: Tsang", October 26).

He said businesses cannot cope with the rising labour costs, given the current economic environment, which would lead to higher unemployment and a decrease in spending power.

Adding insult to injury, he noted that the city's standard of living has obviously improved, as is evident in the city's increasing taste for fine liquor.

Isn't Tsang aware that skyrocketing property prices, which benefit landlords and property tycoons, have crushed the middle class and the city's wealth inequality has got worse?

In many developed countries, blue-collar and grass-roots jobs pay higher wages than similar ones here. These higher wages create demand, translating to higher spending power.

The reason most small businesses cannot survive in Hong Kong is due to high rents and lack of domestic spending power (since the low wages have already been used up for expensive housing), and not because of labour costs.

Why doesn't Tsang lament instead our high rents, or - taking it a step further - consider ending our dollar peg and adjusting our interest rates?

Unlike many others, I'm not totally critical of the government. I'm very optimistic of Leung Chun-ying's approach; the poverty rate has shown a marked decline since he took office, and he has tried to tackle the housing shortage by increasing supply, curbing foreign purchases and preventing speculation.

His focus on livelihood issues is the right move, though his interventionist policies have sparked outright condemnation from business groups, tycoons, indigenous villagers, environmentalists and vested interest groups.

For ages, Hong Kong has believed in the free market ideology, in which the tycoons rule. A dose of constructive intervention with socialist characteristics is what's needed.

This could begin with a tax on luxury property and a more progressive tax system.

Bernard E.S. Lee, Tsuen Wan

Good salary offers incentive to work

Our financial secretary noted recently that paying someone HK$12,000 to wash dishes is bad for our small and medium-sized enterprises ("HK$12,000 to wash dishes is bad for business: Tsang", October 26).

As a small business owner and a former lecturer in economics, I hope to make a more balanced statement on this.

We have a good social security system in the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance scheme. A low-skilled labourer has two choices - to work (and receive a salary in exchange) and not to work (to live on CSSA). To give dignity to those who choose to work, a salary for the work option must be higher than the CSSA payment.

To be more precise, it should be higher than the CSSA payment plus transportation costs plus the opportunity costs of lost free time.

I would rather see a society where "lowly jobs" are not necessarily lowly-paid jobs, and the gap between management and those being managed is narrower than it is now.

As British chef Gordon Ramsay points out, the main reason why restaurants have such a short life span in Hong Kong is due to high rent. We should be trying to address the high rent rather than cut workers' salaries.

Dennis Li, Mid-levels

What next - a health label on meat?

Given the World Trade Organisation's recent warning that consumption of processed meats can be as carcinogenic as smoking, can we look forward to urgent action from the government? Will it legislate for health warnings (including photographs) on packaging, advertising bans and restrictions on sales to and consumption by minors for meat products - already in place for tobacco products?

Or perhaps even health warnings to diners tempted by full English breakfasts, bangers and mash, and so on?

What next? E-sausages?

Doug Miller, Tai Po

Fox anchors are more than pretty faces

Alex Lo should speak for himself when he says that most men only watch the Fox news channel to see the "foxy anchors" and for "that nano-second when they re-cross their legs and change their sitting position"("They only watch Fox for the comments", October 19).

He really gives himself away here.

The anchors on Fox that Lo mentions - Ainsley Earhardt, Heather Childers, Sandra Smith and Megyn Kelly - are all smart and educated women. Between them, they have won many journalism awards.

Kelly, for one, was a senior partner at a law firm and, since moving to Fox, she has hit hard at not just "hapless Democrats" (Lo's term), but also those on the right - her jousts with Karl Rove and Donald Trump being two famous examples.

Childers, sneers Lo, was a beauty queen. For this, she deserves to be derided?

I say this as someone more of the left than the right. My default TV news setting is the BBC, but I also turn to Fox from time to time.

Some have called Fox a mouthpiece for the Republican party. It's not really that, but even if it is, so what? We - including Lo, I assume - prefer two-party or multi-party systems of government. So why should we expect that all TV news should be from one view only - those to the left? Why do people want to see only that which echoes their own views?

By the way, I note that Lo's "leg-crossing" genre of political reporting is as much alive and well on left-of-centre networks.

The only "crime" of these Fox female anchors, according to Lo, is that they also happen to be attractive. Surely, for a man of the principled left, it should be out of bounds to launch ad hominem attacks on women for their looks, good or bad.

This column of Lo's is arrogant, creepy and misogynist. He should be ashamed of it.

Peter Forsythe, Discovery Bay

No one's owed a living, even graduates

In Monday's Moving Forward feature ("Ricky Szeto's herbal recipe for success", October 26), you recount Ricky Szeto Wing-fu's story about a fresh graduate who was found sobbing in a back street, questioning why a degree-holder from a top local university should be reduced to delivering herbal jelly to customers (as part of his training for future leaders).

It is reported that Szeto knew how the trainee felt as he had been through similar experiences in the past, and he concluded that the trainee should be allowed to leave, as he was "too good for me".

Unless there has been a sudden increase in the popularity of sarcasm, Mr Szeto's comment precisely describes the problem with Hong Kong's workforce today. They seem to believe that if they get a degree, then the world owes them a living as they have nothing further to learn.

Any employers who share Mr Szeto's view will be getting the junior staff (senior staff of the future) that they deserve.

Or, of course, they could recruit from the mainland, where the response from new graduates would be very different.

Ian Brown, Lamma

Distorted view of democracy fuelled protest

I thank Yonden Lhatoo for his article ("Abuse of police is a vile legacy of Occupy protests", October 23), which I came across when I was attending a conference in Hong Kong last week.

It was a delight to read his message, which was fair and not intended to please the protesters. The Occupy protests saddened me when I learnt the shallow view of democracy reflected by the protesters, regardless of their age and background. No doubt some were trying to take advantage of the situation; they were in it for their own gain.

Nothing worries me more than seeing the young people being used, and some politicians motivated by hatred towards the Chinese government. The sentiment made them irrational and subjective.

I am very blessed to have worked in Hong Kong for eight years during the 1980s, and to have lived in the UK for 17 years, then Australia since 2007.

I can appreciate the allure of Western democracy when China was in the tight fists of Mao Zedong . The contrast was far too great.

We have to admire the brilliance of British politics - otherwise Hong Kong would not be so successful economically and so stable. It is exactly this strength which has given the people pride, which prevents them from seeing the need now of being part of their own country. Their distorted views of "democracy" and "human right" have driven people to the extreme.

Jamie Lai, Queensland, Australia