Letters to the Editor, December 29, 2012
Property tax can stamp out 'dirty dealings'
I refer to the report ("Sparks fly in talks on new taxes", December 22).
It is evident that major property developers' old ways of enabling redevelopment projects will no longer work.
It is customary to employ agent companies to purchase on their behalf, so there may be several layers of transactions before the true developer is reached (and each would have to bear the 15 per cent tax).
One reason for this is that redevelopment often involves "dirty tricks" to hassle and intimidate the existing owners of prospective buildings into selling. And these major companies wish to keep a distance and their public face clean.
One beneficial side effect of the government's plans may be that it forces these unethical purchase agents out of the field.
The Real Estate Developers Association is wrong to think that redevelopment will stop, however.
The old guard may lack the creativity and flexibility to respond to the new realities, but younger developers will succeed by treating the existing owners fairly in development partnerships.
In the past 15 years, Hong Kong's property industry has become too much of an old boys' network, and if new blood flows into the industry, it will be a good thing for Hong Kong.
Frank Lee, Mid-Levels
Plugging Hong Kong's happiness deficit
A survey released earlier this month found that Hongkongers were less happy this year.
Though the score of middle-class people earning more than HK$40,000 a month increased, the Lingnan University survey found that the overall happiness index had slipped from 71.3 last year to 70.5.
I think the reasons for this are fairly obvious.
Everyone in Hong Kong is aware of the problems connected with inflation and the inability of the government to tackle it.
In particular, citizens earning less than HK$40,000 are feeling the pinch, as any pay rises they may have enjoyed lag behind rising prices. Clearly they do not feel happy about such a state of affairs.
Those on salaries ranging from HK$30,000 to HK$39,999 recorded the biggest drop in the happiness index, from 74.1 to 66.9.
I believe this is because they are not eligible for housing benefits and allowances that the government has made available. They feel let down by what they see as a failure of government policy. They feel the administration does not care about them.
The administration is failing to deal with the wealth gap in society and the need for retirement protection.
However, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has acted swiftly to combat property market speculation and crack down on parallel traders.
Despite what he has done, his integrity has been called into question.
The government needs to work at regaining a positive image and the support of Hong Kong citizens.
Nicole Man Siu-ching, Hung Hom
Leung must apologise, but not step down
There have been calls for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to quit over illegal building works at his home on The Peak.
He faces protests on the streets, with marchers echoing the call for him to step down. They are not happy with the way he has responded to the mistakes he has made.
There is no doubt that he has made huge errors of judgment and this has led to critics raising questions about his integrity. He must admit to these mistakes and make a satisfactory apology.
But I do not think he should stand down. He plays a crucial role in maintaining stability in our society and if he resigns, the situation might become chaotic.
He needs to work at repairing his damaged reputation by accepting full responsibility for the consequences of these unauthorised structures.
Felix Lam Tsz-kin, Tseung Kwan O
If tickets won't scare drivers, tow trucks will
So the drivers of the bosses' cars would rather have the penalty tickets paid than move on after having been given a lawful order by a police officer ("Chauffeurs more afraid of boss than parking fine", December 17).
The answer of course is very simple.
After an officer has issued a ticket, he issues a final instruction for the driver to move.
If ignored, he calls up a tow truck conveniently waiting nearby. As soon as the chains are attached to the first Rolls-Royce, all the other cars will scatter like leaves in an autumn wind.
Carry out this exercise a couple of times and your problem is solved. Easy, isn't it?
John Wilson, Yau Ma Tei
Honouring Ah Bun's push for euthanasia law
I was sorry to learn of the death earlier this month of Tang Siu-pun, more popularly known by the nickname Ah Bun.
He was a role model for all Hongkongers. I admired his positive outlook despite being paralysed from the neck down following an accident in 1991.
He kept striving for a change in the law so that euthanasia could be legalised.
I agreed with his stand on this issue.
I think there are cases when it is a justifiable release for people - for example, for someone who is in the advanced stages of terminal cancer and is suffering a great deal.
I had a friend who suffered from colon cancer. Although he tried his best to conceal the pain, you could see he was suffering. He was sometimes in tears from the pain.
Why should someone like that be forced to stay alive if they do not wish to do so and if they are in intense pain?
Ah Bun felt, because of his condition where he had to rely on people for the simplest tasks, that he had lost his dignity.
He felt that a change in the law relating to euthanasia would be a show of respect by the government for people like him.
Although Ah Bun has passed away, his spirit is still alive and I hope people will continue to strive for a change in the law relating to euthanasia.
Jody Ng , Tseung Kwan O
Failing to catch drift of tourist 'tsunami'
I was incredulous that it had taken a cross-border rail trip on a recent weekend for your columnist Lau Nai-keung to gain insight into the adverse impact the "tsunami" of tourists is causing ("It's time to stop taking shots at Leung; let him do his job", December 21).
While I fully support his call for action, I must ask why Lau feels it is appropriate to remain a member of the Commission on Strategic Development when he has been so patently out of touch for so long.
Stephen Brown, Tai Po
Waste fees to ease pressure on landfills
A public consultation exercise conducted earlier this year has revealed that a majority of Hongkongers back waste charges.
It is estimated that the city's landfills will have reached capacity by 2018, which is why the government is proposing the introduction of a charging scheme for solid waste.
I think it is a suitable way of reducing the pressure on our landfills. It is clearly time for Hong Kong people to reflect on the quantities of waste they generate. If they don't do that, this problem will remain unresolved.
Hongkongers have a habit of eating takeaway food and using disposable utensils.
If people need to pay fees, they will start to think about how they can reduce the levels of rubbish they generate in their homes.
They will soon discover that the best way to keep their charges low will be to sort through their refuse before putting it out for collection.
A similar system exists in Japan where citizens support refuse fees.
A charging system is clearly an effective and environmentally friendly way to deal with the problem, if less waste is being generated by individual households in Hong Kong. Once it has been implemented, it will yield positive results.
There is therefore no doubt that Hong Kong must come up with a waste-levy policy.
Yannis Liu Sin-nga, Tiu Keng Leng
US, France can learn from Hong Kong economy
France has been going through a gloomy holiday season.
This is largely due to its socialist government's introduction of dramatic tax increases, which tipped its economy into recession, given the exodus of numerous talented people, including Bernard Arnault, billionaire head of the LVMH luxury goods group and France's richest man.
This sentiment is shared by Americans, given that the chances of the Democrats and Republicans reaching a consensus on how to prevent the US from going over the so-called fiscal cliff seem bleak.
From the French experience, it is clear that insane tax increases on high-net-worth individuals (in France's case, up to a 75 per cent income tax) cannot solve economic problems. The only solution is to have modest and progressive tax increases.
The Barack Obama administration should also cut back on government spending, including on its controversial medical care programmes, despite its good intentions.
A smaller government and a market-driven economy are the best ways to allow businesses to thrive, as has been proven in economies like that of Hong Kong.
Samantha Datwani, Fortress Hill