Old age allowance

Letters to the Editor, November 1, 2012

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 2:58am


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Hakka village is important heritage site

Hongkongers see their trips to the countryside during holidays and at weekends as an opportunity to enjoy greenery and breathe fresh air.

One of their favourite haunts is Sai Kung, and the village of Pak Sha O has a rich ecological and cultural heritage.

Unfortunately, that appears to be under threat, thanks to a developer having bought land before the government could zone its use ("Developer's shadow hangs over Sai Kung village oasis", October 24).

You can see from photos that some damage has already been done, with about 3,000 square metres of rich wetland having been cleared and excavated.

I can understand conservationists' fears for the ecologically sensitive wetlands in this 100-year-old Hakka village and wildlife such as the endangered three-line Bagrid fish. What is happening in Pak Sha O could herald further development of un-zoned land in Sai Kung's country parks.

I appreciate that a shortage of land is a serious problem in Hong Kong, because it leads to a limited supply of housing. The government wants to see that supply increased. However, while it needs to solve the SAR's housing problems, this should not be done at the expense of sites like Pak Sha O, which are ecologically valuable.

Officials can learn from countries in Europe and in the region, for example, Singapore, where governments try to strike a balance between land development needs and environmental protection.

Alex Tang Hin-lung, Tai Wai

Vice-president sticks to strict ethical code

The report ("New negotiator lets the past rest", October 21), quotes Paul Lin, a "Taipei-based political commentator", as saying that Republic of China Vice-President Wu Den-yih has "close relations with corrupt officials and triad leaders". This is a pure fabrication, and the Office of the President categorically denies it.

During his 30-plus years in government, Vice-President Wu has always abided by a rigorous code of personal ethics.

As one entrusted by the public with a mandate to serve, he is keenly aware that he must adhere to a standard that is stricter than what the law requires. Moreover, he accepts the public's full scrutiny.

There is not a shred of truth to the allegation quoted in your article, and this office finds it highly regrettable that your paper reported it without checking the facts.

Joseph Chen, director general, Department of Public Affairs, Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)

Roundabouts perfect for intersections

I have wanted to write to these columns suggesting the implementation of more traffic roundabouts for some time so I was delighted to read David Lai's letter ("A roundabout solution to traffic woes", October 23).

He asks for responses from the authorities but to date I have seen none.

Mr Lai's comments are spot on, a simple way to help to keep traffic flowing. For a start, could I suggest that the transport minister looks at the road that runs under the highway from Kennedy Town to Central?

There are many intersections with traffic lights. Many of these intersections could be better served by introducing roundabouts.

Perhaps a trial scheme, introduce temporary roundabouts on some of these intersections and see how it works.

I am certain the traffic flow would be better and drivers would welcome the change.

It would be interesting to hear comments from the transport secretary.

Howard Cowley, Kennedy Town

Tourist quota can ease the pressure

I can understand why Hong Kong has been judged as the best place to shop in the region ("HK named Asia's best shopping city", October 27).

Hong Kong is certainly a shopping paradise. You can find everything you want here, with products sourced from many different countries.

This is why the city attracts so many tourists from all over the world. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, a record 42 million visitors flocked to the city in 2011.

However, this large number of people coming here presents some serious problems. With an average hotel occupancy of 80 per cent, Hong Kong is ranked third in a list of places where getting a room is difficult.

Given the SAR's attractions, we can expect even more tourists to want to come here. So the shortage of rooms will become more serious and I wonder how visitors would feel if they come here and cannot get a place to stay. This is a problem that has to be addressed by the government as soon as possible.

It is not just the tourists who are affected, too. There is not enough living space for Hong Kong citizens.

Officials must improve the present situation and ensure no further damage to the environment. One policy it could adopt would be to limit the number of tourists who can come into Hong Kong.

Jane Leung, Tseung Kwan O

Conglomerates make start-ups very difficult

I refer to the report ("HK is still No 2 when it comes to doing business", October 24).

Should Hong Kong be ranked the second-easiest place to conduct business? I would say no. I think the ranking, based on the number of days it takes to register a business and get a construction permit or electricity supply, does not really reflect the reality.

Hong Kong is a very difficult place to start a business as we are controlled by major conglomerates and the government through a high land-price policy.

Let me make a number of points to back up my argument. In 2000, Carrefour moved out of the city, citing difficulty to secure retail spaces against developer-biased supermarket chains.

Hong Kong developers are famous for making a fortune but why are there no international firms to compete here if it is easy to get a construction permit?

In the US, I can buy a property by faxing my offer and signing by fax on closing without attending physically. In Hong Kong, I have to be here physically to close a deal.

In the US, I can get a building permit in 30 days to expand the size of my house, but here it is almost impossible. It also explains why we have so many illegal structures.

In America, I pay US$1 in commission to buy 100 shares of Apple worth US$70,000, whereas in Hong Kong I pay almost US$700 transaction costs.

It is wrong to say Hong Kong is great for low tax and little government interference. The government interferes with the market by controlling land supplies, pushing up property prices and leading to a wider rich-poor gap. How can we do business easily with skyrocketing rents?

The list just goes on but these are not counted in the ranking system.

J. Wong, Tai Po

It will be tough to deal with ageing society

Some elderly people in Hong Kong are struggling financially and many must keep working even when they have reached retirement age.

The problem of poverty in old age will get worse as we have an ageing population and so there is clearly a need to have a comprehensive welfare policy for this group of people.

The government wants to introduce the HK$2,200 Old Age Living Allowance, but I do not think this monthly sum will be enough for some elderly people. An official poverty line must be established.

This will give officials a more accurate measure when determining how the subsidy should be distributed and how much it should be. Also, the treasury will face a heavy financial burden if it does not have a means test for the allowance.

Jenny Chan, Kwun Tong

Poverty line makes good financial sense

Many poor citizens in Hong Kong are in need of help.

In order to improve the welfare system and make more efficient use of the funds available, the government must draw up a poverty line.

This will provide an accurate picture of the true nature of the gap between the rich and poor in our society.

Once the government has a clearer picture, it can come up with more effective policies to deal with the problem of poverty and the best way to help our poorest citizens. It can allocate resources in a more efficient manner.

Brittany Wong, Sha Tin

Legislate to ensure safer windows

The problem of falling and breaking windows has affected some high-rise residential buildings in Hong Kong.

In one, The Arch in West Kowloon, there have been 59 breakages since 2008.

The problems with glass in some high-rises has raised questions about the standards that are imposed by the Buildings Department when they are being built. Home owners will understandably be worried about potential risk to the public and legal liability.

I think that "glass cancer" is a serious issue. It has to be addressed as soon as possible. The government should consider passing whatever laws are needed to ensure glass windows are safe.

The department must make it clear what specifications regarding glass contractors must adhere to, and checks should be carried out to ensure firms stick to them.

Yannis Mak, Tai Wai