Letters to the Editor, February 2, 2013
Set timetable for schools funding plan
Some people were disap- pointed that, in his maiden policy address last month, there was no concrete plan by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to implement the 15 years' free education pledged during his election campaign ("Hope for free education gives way to frustration", January 26).
Although most parents would like to see such a system introduced as soon as possible, I think there has to be a reasonable transition period.
There are so many different aspects to consider, for instance, the provision of different kinds of kindergartens to suit different children, and how to cope with skyrocketing rents for premises. Officials must take time to consider the feasibility of this programme. They must also calculate the additional cost to taxpayers of implementing these measures.
In other words, there must be a thorough investigation of all the permutations and that is why a reasonable transition period must be allowed.
However, the timetable should be clear and transparent and, once established, the government must adhere to it.
Susie Li Po-yi, Tai Wai
Bias unfair in classroom commute
I oppose giving admission priority to local families in schools.
It will definitely be inconvenient for Hong Kong pupils who live in North District to have to go to other districts.
If they are given admissions priority, then cross-border pupils will have to go to schools beyond North District and they could end up with travelling times of around two hours from home to school and back.
These children have Hong Kong identity cards and are entitled to all the rights that are enshrined in our laws.
The problem will be solved when more classrooms are built in North District.
Chow Yik-ming, Sha Tin
Tax dividends to solve budget conundrum
I refer to the letter by Stephanie Mo ("Raise old age allowance to HK$5,000", January 31).
There may be a case for increasing the allowance from the existing HK$2,200. However, by more than doubling the sum, the additional cost would put a huge burden on the government budget.
Just as in other developed economies with ageing populations, Hong Kong will face the conundrum between allocating resources to the elderly and the younger generation (past versus future). One possible solution is to raise extra revenue via increased taxes.
However, this would put further pressure on Hong Kong's middle class and many of them are already heavily beset by rising rents and house prices. Another option, which would be more palatable, is to introduce dividends and/or capital gains taxes. Most countries have dividends taxes, as does the mainland. This would also make the tax regime more progressive and it could even be made more so by lowering the income tax rate.
The government should seriously contemplate this source of revenue, instead of burdening middle-class people with onerous taxation.
Kristiaan Helsen, Sai Kung
Recycling the only answer to waste crisis
Hong Kong faces a very serious waste problem and the prospect of our landfills reaching capacity by 2019.
It is estimated that HK$31 billion will have to be spent on waste-handling infrastructure in the next seven years ("HK$31b bid to resolve crisis over city waste", January 22).
Some of this money may be spent on building an incinerator, which would reduce the volumes of waste going to the landfills and give them a longer lifespan.
An incinerator might give the landfills a bit more time, but they would still eventually be exhausted, given the vast amount of waste generated in the city.
Also, when waste is burned, it produces pollutants, and this could lead to even worse air quality. I just do not feel that building one incinerator can tackle the serious problems that we face. In fact, it will create more problems.
Instead, the government must introduce, in phases, more modern recycling facilities for glass, food waste and even batteries. A comprehensive recycling programme can substantially reduce volumes of waste generated.
Carol Li Wing-sum, Ma On Shan
HK should encourage parallel traders
Hong Kong is taking the wrong approach to so many issues.
It grew and excelled through being a supplier of goods and services to and from China and the world. It was entrepreneurial and, as trade expanded, so did Hong Kong.
Now every opportunity that comes along is thought of negatively.
We should be happy that entrepreneurs purchase goods in Hong Kong and export them to the mainland.
We should encourage these parallel traders and do what Hong Kong is good at. Find more supplies and import them, ready for re-export. In Europe, milk producers are complaining that they are selling products at a loss. Let us purchase from them, not try to find ways of controlling the market.
There are complaints that there are not enough school places or doctors and hospital beds because mainland people are taking these. Instead of trying to find ways to prevent them coming, set up new schools, train more doctors and open new hospitals. Encourage more mainland people to come and make money from them.
There were complaints in these columns from Jeffrey Kuperus that increases in commercial rents were forcing business to close, taking as an example the Pedder Building in Central ("Skyrocketing rent hikes now ridiculous", January 7).
If Abercrombie & Fitch can make a profit out of the Pedder Building and Shanghai Tang cannot then so be it.
The area has improved as the building has now been renovated as a result.
The increase in prime office rents in Central has been beneficial as it has led to redevelopment in other areas like North Point and Taikoo Place. Firms moved and the cycle is complete with Central rents now dropping considerably.
If housing prices are too high just save your money and wait until they fall as they have so many times in the past.
What Hong Kong needs is less control and more of the freedom and the entrepreneurial spirit that built it into the wonderful place it is today.
Ian A. Skeggs, Tai Hang
Vital we protect our fading culture
I refer to the report about the closure of the Lei Yuen Congee Noodles shop in Causeway Bay ("Diners bid goodbye to 42-year-old noodle shop", January 29).
The closure of so many of these small businesses in Hong Kong should be a warning call and we cannot turn a blind eye to our vanishing local culture.
As rents soar beyond what people can afford, many businesses are forced to move to another location, where they will pay a more reasonable and affordable rent, or close down for good.
The government has done little to tackle this problem, feeling it cannot interfere in Hong Kong's free market economy.
However, the unique Hong Kong-style restaurants, cha chaan teng, which symbolise a distinguished culinary heritage, are gradually fading, replaced by restaurant chains. Perhaps one day you will see one of these eateries only as an exhibit in a museum.
The retail chains, which occupy sites once frequented by traditional enterprises, sell things like electronic gadgets, which are so popular with mainland tourists.
Conflicts between mainlanders and local citizens have been steadily escalating. Such tensions would be less likely if we could retain our local culture.
James Au Kin-pong, Lai Chi Kok
Not happy about census brouhaha
I note with interest the hullabaloo surrounding the alleged falsification of statistical data by Census and Statistics Department officials and various letters to these columns, including one by Barry Chin ("'Fake' census scandal can launch new ethical culture era", January 25).
This very much calls to mind the quote popularised by Mark Twain that "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." As an example, statistically speaking, it is undoubtedly true that six of the seven dwarves are not Happy.
John J. Shanahan, Causeway Bay
Night at the opera one to remember
I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Opera Hong Kong for its unforgettable 10th anniversary concert, on January 20.
People have worked hard to raise funds to promote opera in Hong Kong and their efforts are admirable.
I enjoyed seeing the gathering of singers, choirs and performers, young and old, and it reminded me of how unique this world city is.
G. Chan, Happy Valley