15 per cent stamp duty
To rein in the city's runaway housing prices, Hong Kong's Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced an additional 15 per cent stamp duty on non-permanent-resident and corporate buyers starting from October 27, 2012. The move prompted speculation over the effectiveness of taxation on the real estate market and criticisms that Hong Kong was turning away from its roots as a free market economy in favour of a more protectionist market environment.
Letters to the Editor, December 18, 2012
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C.Y. must stand firm on stamp duty policy
Your Monday Face interviewee Lui Che-woo projects the usual hackneyed tycoon opinion that Hong Kong must remain "business as usual" and nothing must get in the way of property company profits ("Capitalising on opportunity" December 10).
His forthright views are that luxury projects within the city must be open to elite outsiders, and that locals should be decanted to the New Territories and Lantau. Goodbye our beautiful countryside in exchange for extreme profit into the pockets of the same small group of businessmen.
Mr Lui's company K. Wah International is one of the joint developers of Marinella in Shum Wan.
His director of sales and marketing is complaining bitterly that because of the new buyer's stamp duty, he is having difficulty in offloading the 20 remaining units ("Stamp duty 'a drag' on sales at luxury project", December 12).
He should be so lucky, as 95 per cent of this project has already been sold. I venture that most of these were sold as investment vehicles to mainland buyers, and not as (much-needed) homes for Hongkongers.
There is an obvious and gathering campaign by the property industry to coerce the government to withdraw the recent measures, but Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's administration must stand firm on behalf of the community to control the selfish bubble-blowing excesses of the property industry.
The cost of living is escalating alarmingly and rising property prices are the major cause, as they affect all other costs.
Jack Spade, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tighter gun laws needed in America
I struggled on Saturday to digest the unimaginable horror of the overnight shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
I choose the word horror because to describe this latest senseless killing as a tragedy connotes - for me at least - a certain sense of unavoidability.
The truth is that shootings such as these are (largely) avoidable. The legislative and regulatory response to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Australia demonstrated how the restriction of access to, and removal of, firearms from the community materially reduces the opportunity for committing these heinous crimes.
Conversely, the insane entrenchment in US law of the effective right of one citizen to kill another/other citizen(s) with firearms ensures that these abhorrent acts will continue to be randomly and senselessly inflicted upon innocent communities.
Only when US political leaders grasp the nettle of this reality, rather than offering the same anguished sound bites we hear in the wake of each massacre, will meaningful protection be afforded their constituents.
We can only be grateful to live in a city such as Hong Kong with an effective absence of firearms, and the laws necessary to maintain this state of affairs.
Matthew McGrath, Yuen Long
Tragedy is hopefully a wake-up call
What happened in Newton, Connecticut, leading to the deaths of 20 children, was the latest of this kind of mass shooting in the United States.
Clearly, the perpetrators have serious psychological problems. However, the other problem is the ease with which Americans can get guns, supposedly to defend themselves.
The vast majority of Americans will purchase them for that purpose, but clearly they can be and are used inappropriately. The US government must try and prevent a repeat of these tragedies by tightening gun laws.
For example, anyone who is diagnosed with a serious psychological problem should not be allowed to own a gun.
Obviously there are certain conditions which may cause them to act erratically and which could put people in danger if they are in possession of a firearm.
I also think that any family wanting to purchase a gun should have a restriction imposed on the number of firearms they are allowed to own.
Education is important, as is the promotion of proper parental care. Many of the shooters in these incidents are young and were clearly having problems at home.
Parents need to look out for signs of severe alienation and help their children to deal with any problems they are experiencing. Parental control is a very important issue which cannot be ignored.
I hope effective measures can be taken to prevent these outrages from happening in any country in the future.
Derek Ho, Tsuen Wan
Cathay union's pay demand reasonable
Given that inflation is a serious issue in Hong Kong, I can understand why Cathay Pacific flight attendants are calling for a 5 per cent pay increase.
I think their pay demand is reasonable given rises in the Consumer Price Index. Apart from their pay demand, the flight attendants are also calling for more rest periods.
They have argued that there is now not enough time for them or for Cathay's pilots to get a proper rest and that they used to have longer rest periods between long-haul flights.
Given the continued rise in the rate of inflation, it is important that the company should respect the union's collective bargaining rights.
Of course, inflation is a problem that is affecting all citizens and it is becoming increasingly difficult for Hongkongers to purchase a flat. Many struggle to earn more money so they can have a better standard of living. For that reason I agree with the government's decision to increase the hourly statutory minimum wage rate.
The argument made by the Cathay union applies to Hongkongers from other walks of life who are not getting enough rest.
That is why I believe the government should also pass statutory working hours legislation. I am sure there are a number of Hongkongers who work for 10 hours or more.
People will actually perform better if they are given sufficient time to rest.
Timothy Wong, Sham Tseng
Thorough recycling the best option
The government is proposing what is, in effect, a rubbish collection levy ("Government launches war on food waste", December 4).
Critics of the proposed measure have talked about the financial burden it would impose on some people.
I think effective recycling is a better way to reduce waste volumes.
Officials could look to some countries in Europe which have a very comprehensive recycling strategy and learn from what they have done.
Wong Wan-tung, Yau Tong
Assessment piles on more pressure
The school-based assessment (SBA) has proved to be controversial.
There have been calls for some or all of it to be removed from the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education timetable.
As one would expect, students in Hong Kong suffer a lot from an education system that is superficial and inflexible.
It is competitive and this leaves students stressed.
They face a heavy workload, including homework, and what seem like interminable exams and tests. Students have so little spare time to pursue their own interests and ultimately their dreams.
Those who support the SBA have argued that it can reduce the pressure students face when they have to sit the public examination, as the work they do every day in school can be counted as part of the exam results.
However, I think that it can actually add to the stress.
This is because with the SBA, students now feel that everything they do is being assessed in the school day and this can actually lead to feelings of even greater anxiety.
I would rather the government spent more resources offering subsidies. These subsidies and allowances should be made available to students and to allow them to participate in more extra-curricular activities.
This will help them to broaden their horizons and have a deeper understanding of society, rather than having to spend all their time poring over textbooks and exam papers.
I hope for the day when Hong Kong students do not feel trapped in this exam-minded education system.
Cat To, Clear Water Bay
Hope for peace may be wishful thinking
I refer to your editorial ("Looking for hope in Palestine", December 5) and agree that seeking peace is a truly desolate task that stretches one's faith.
It is doubtful that there has ever been any genuine intention to negotiate further from the Oslo peace accords' Declaration of Principles in 1993.
In reality since then there has only been hot air and much posturing, mostly targeted at the US.
It was a significant coincidence that the recent UN vote to upgrade Palestine's status to a non-member observer state fell on the same day (65 years later) that the UN adopted a resolution to partition the land of historic Palestine which led to the birth of the state of Israel.
This synchronicity should help focus on the right of a viable Palestine state, within meaningful borders.
Looking for hope in Palestine? It can be found only if Israel is willing to look directly in a true and undistorted mirror.
I.M. Wright, Happy Valley