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  • Oct 25, 2014
  • Updated: 3:10am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 4:34am

All carrot, no stick for big business

The government doesn't just pander to taxi and minibus operators with a massive subsidy to replace old catalytic converters, a wise reader has pointed out. It mollycoddles the entire transport trade.

Besides the HK$150 million for taxis and minibuses I wrote about, there is the HK$400 million earmarked to retrofit the old bus fleets with new emissions control devices under KMB, Citybus, New World First Bus and Long Win.

As an Environmental Protection Department official put it with a perfectly straight face: "We propose to fully fund the franchised bus companies for the capital costs of retrofitting for some 1,400 Euro 2 and 3 buses, including the buses selected for the pre-qualification trial."

But all those hundreds of millions pale before the mind-boggling HK$10 billion the government has proposed to spend to phase out about 88,000 dirty diesel trucks by 2019 - that is, pre-Euro 4 diesel commercial vehicles.

The plan is still being worked out in discussions with trade leaders - who will no doubt demand their pound of flesh and get it - and then presented to the Legislative Council for funding.

So, the operators pollute our air, and we foot the bill for the clean-up. Another glorious example of our generous welfarism for big corporations and the rich. No wonder corporate types like Stanley Lau Chin-ho of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries denounces welfarism for the poor. Boys and girls, it's truly a nasty class war out there.

No doubt the trade has argued, and they are probably not bluffing, that either they would do nothing if they had to pay for converting or replacing the polluting vehicles, or they would raise fares and charges to such a high level that the public would end up blaming the government for enforcing tough emissions standards.

I love this corporate welfarism - heads I win, tails you lose. It's all carrot and no stick.

We all recognise the need to remove or at least lower sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other particulate emissions in our environment. But there must be new and greater penalties and enhanced monitoring to make all these massive subsidies worthwhile. Otherwise, we face an endless cycle of trade subsidy.


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our biggest local polluter is the shipping industry. Local diesel is Euro V 0.001% sulfur whereas ocean going vessel bunker fuel is 2.75% - 4% sulfur & we have the busiest shipping movements in the world in & transiting our waters with prevailing easterly winds blowing NOx / SOx / PM2.5 / PM1 respirable suspended particulate shxt into the territory. The overbuilt overdeveloped glasswall buildings prevent windflow & create urban canyons that trap the airborne pollutants. Govt should buy its own fleet of hybrid electric double decker buses which would be the only ones allowed on Nathan Rd, Central & Causeway Bay Clean Air Zone areas.
Currently our buses run @ 10% occupancy for 80+% of the day & serve mainly as moving advertising billboards.
The biggest carrot Hong Kong government has used in transport sector is on MTRC since its inception with rail-housing development model. The construction of the rail and station is paid off instantly by selling air-rights above station for housing which by and large set the bench mark how much and size of flats in Hong Kong – expansively and tiny to be affordable. Now other transportations look for funding of their operation to continue their public service. Rightly they should ask the public to foot the bill too. Such argument albeit with MTR as precedent, the injustice here public is paying for the mistakes in poor maintenance that has caused air pollution by their vehicles. As for the buses to upgrade their fleet out of public pocket, the public should oversee the government very closely this time to make sure the buses aren’t technologically obsolete models and should run well in the hilly topography of Hong Kong. Better still, if we must pay to make over the entire fleet, why not ‘publictize’ the service – make them truly a public transportation and not as a vehicle for profits as they are now. This is the ultimate stick.
John Adams
Mr Lo,
I don't give a flying f*** whether it's carrot or stick as long as we get those polluting buses, taxis, minibuses and other commercial vehicles converted ASAP.
I'm sick of breathing their foul fumes
This is a much better use of $10 billion than whiskers Tsang's $60 billion budget giveaways.
By all means let's enforce stricter legislation to make sure that vehicles -once converted - keep their converters in good condition.
But given the EPD's dismal record in enforcing the anti-idling law I think we can also give up much hope of that unless - just unless - the govt enforces a simple and effective law for once, e.g commercial vehicle licences are only issued for 3 months at a time and need a recent valid test certificate to do so.
Ms Christine Loh : if you are reading this, thanks indeed for phase 1. That's one small step for common sense but one big step forward for HK's population.
Now please let's go to phase 2 Exhaust emission testing technology is not rocket science. And since we the tax payers are paying for this subsidy the commercial vehicle operators don't have a leg to stand on if they complain about being forced to have their vehicles re-tested every three months ...or even one month in order to be re-licensed (and they should pay for the tests! )




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