Old and new MPF set-up impractical
The Mandatory Provident Fund is a good thing, because it forces very low-income groups to save money, which they otherwise might not do.
Even though the actuaries will argue that the savings are quite inadequate to meet retirement needs, the MPF is nonetheless a step in the right direction.
However, its structural set-up, both the old and the new, is impractical, because it is inefficient and expensive to administer due to the small scale of the accounts and minute size of the contributions; therefore, it should be no surprise that the management fees are so high.
Furthermore it imposes a great administrative burden on small businesses, particularly blue-collar employees and casual labour, who cannot afford clerks to run the scheme. This will become worse if employers have to contribute to multiple managers under the new system. These small businesses are constantly being reprimanded by the MPF authority for late payment and other minor infringements, which add to the administrative hassle for all. In short, the MPF is unsatisfactory for all participants.
The solution must be for the administrative and custodial functions to be separated from the investment management functions and to be placed under one roof, preferably government-owned, somewhat akin to the Inland Revenue Department. Employers would deal entirely with this one entity and have no relationship with investment managers.
The fund management industry would then be free to focus purely on winning investment business and could charge reduced fees, as the administrative burden would have been removed.
Employees would be required by the MPF administrator to select managers and, importantly, employers would have no relationship whatever with MPF investment managers, so all the concerns about employer vested interests would disappear.
Antony W. Wood, Pok Fu Lam
Tighter regulation of beauty centres
The reports about the women who became ill, with one dying, after receiving blood transfusion therapy at a beauty centre must give serious cause for concern.
I feel that government regulations which cover beauty centres and other businesses offering similar services in Hong Kong are not rigorous enough.
Officials must devise tougher and more thorough monitoring before such a centre can be granted a licence.
It must also be stipulated that some procedures can only be carried out by fully qualified doctors.
Maya Nguyen, Mid-Levels
Candidates can e-mail election ads
I refer to the letter by Simon Barry ("Legco election spam so annoying", September 10), expressing concern about the use of voters' personal data for Legislative Council election by candidates.
Your correspondent urged me to investigate this issue.
As far as we know, when the Registration and Electoral Office collects the personal data from applicants for voter registration, the latter is duly informed by a Personal Information Collection Statement that their names and residential addresses may be provided to third parties for the purposes of voter registration and election as well as all directly related purposes.
On the voter registration form, there is also a note which draws the attention of the applicants that the provision of e-mail address is voluntary and where it is provided, it will be passed to the election candidates for the purpose of sending election advertisements.
In addition, the electoral registration officer is legally permitted, under the relevant electoral regulations, to make available the voters' particulars to any person that the officer considers appropriate for any purpose related to an election.
In the circumstances and taking into account that vote canvassing is directly related to an election, it is not a contravention of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance for the Registration and Election Office to provide the election candidates with the registered voters' names and addresses (including e-mail addresses) for electioneering purposes.
We have, however, advised through various means that as a matter of good practice, an election candidate canvassing for votes from the electors should provide the electors with an option to decline receipt of any further electioneering communication from the candidate. Also, the candidates should maintain a proper opt-out list to avoid further unwanted approaches.
If an individual suspects that his personal data privacy right is infringed under the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, he may lodge a complaint to us.
Allan Chiang, Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data
Powerful undercurrent of discontent
The problem of poverty in Hong Kong has been the subject of heated debate.
There have been protests over the rising costs of basic necessities, such as food and transport. These expressions of discontent over poor living standards, even from recipients of government subsidies, are understandable.
Even some members of the middle class are unhappy. They argue that they pay their taxes but are not enjoying the fruits of economic growth in our society.
It certainly appears that the rich are growing in wealth while those in poverty become poorer. This may be a hot political potato, but it is one which Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying must grasp. At the very least, he cannot allow the rich-poor gap to grow wider.
Scarlet Tse Tung-yan, Kwun Tong
Do exchange controls inhibit some IPOs?
When it comes to financial regulations, less may be more.
Hong Kong Stock Exchange listed only three initial public offerings larger than US$100 million in the third quarter. Renaissance's Global IPO Market Third Quarter 2012 Review correctly writes that this is due to poor stock market returns in the region, and above all, "increased exchange-imposed regulations".
While the intent of the regulations, which is to ensure the functioning of free and fair markets through protecting the interests of various stakeholders, is commendable, statistics suggests that these are hurting our primary market.
Andrew Haldane, executive director for financial stability at the Bank of England, argues that complex financial regulations developed over time may be sub-optimal for crisis control. He says that instead, a less rules-focused and more judgment-based approach to financial supervision could be adopted.
His ideas could provide us with some food for thought.
Samantha Datwani, Fortress Hill
Obama richly deserved peace prize
In his piece about the relevance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Gwynne Dyer says Barack Obama won the award, "though for what is not exactly clear" ("EU deserves the Nobel - for advancing democracy," October 16).
I'm surprised Dyer doesn't realise that the American president so inspired the world with his life story, struggle against racism, brilliant intellect and overall humanity, that the Nobel committee decreed the prize was not just for those who have brought democracy to their country.
It was given to Obama for being a refreshing change from his sorry predecessor, and mainly for having helped overcome his country's racist attitudes, and that of others who denigrate black people.
Of course his administration has met countless stumbling blocks, thanks to the ultra-conservative elements in his government, and also because of those Americans who remain inveterate racists.
But this has not detracted from the fact that the peace prize then was given to an individual of sterling character who remains a role model for many generations around the world.
Beatriz Taylor, Cheung Chau
Villagers' concerns must be addressed
The plans for three new towns in the northeastern New Territories are complicated and will prove difficult to implement.
Given that Hong Kong has limited land resources it is essential to develop new towns, but it will not be easy to answer the needs of all interested parties, including property developers, farmers and other residents in the affected areas.
What sort of compensation will be offered to people who have farmed there for many years but risk losing their land and what will do afterwards if this is the only skill they know?
Many residents live in this part of the New Territories because it has such a serene environment and they probably do not want to leave.
Villagers will say they have a right to remain in what has been their family home for generations.
The government must make it clear to all citizens that this project is designed to benefit Hongkongers, not residents from Shenzhen.
It must ensure that those people who do lose their homes are given adequate compensation.
Also, officials have to strike the right balance between rural and urban development. We do not want to lose all our farmland.
Finally, the government must ensure that affected residents are involved in the consultation process.
Lilian Ip, Aberdeen