Letters to the Editor, March 5, 2013
Tsang failing to grasp need for reform
I refer to your editorial ("City needs ideas, not giveaways", February 26) and disagree that Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah is a "safe pair of hands".
Over six budgets now he has failed to grasp the need for reform and the opportunity that our vast fiscal reserves grant for long-term vision has consistently slipped through his fingers. One must feel some sympathy for chief executive Leung Chun-ying as he has been saddled with a financial secretary who performs as a dyed-in-the-wool bureaucrat, who prefers ad hoc financial measures.
Tsang concedes he has failed in his job as he plans to establish a working group to "make comprehensive plans for public finances". He and his team of civil servants are paid a great deal of money by the community to do just that.
He is applying the civil servants' ploy of defer and avoid responsibility. Hong Kong deserves better. The Community Care Fund is a "lemon". The original intention was a joint government and "big business" initiative to help address extreme effects of poverty.
It is now doubtful that the business community will keep donating to this fund, and definitely the tycoons will not match the government's injection of public money to the tune of HK$15 billion.
Rather than subsidising electricity use, Tsang should introduce a tax on electricity use, in order to focus minds on reducing consumption in order to improve Hong Kong's appalling environment.
This budget does not make the pass mark, and I would only give it three out of 10.
Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels
Indecisiveness and inaction not prudent
My abiding feeling after reading the 2013-14 budget is one of disappointment.
You headline your report, "Safety first again for prudent Tsang" (February 28).
I disagree that it is "prudent" to continually miss the opportunities for the reform that our strong fiscal position affords. Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah thinks he is taking a pragmatic approach to public finances and indicates his thinking with the quote, "Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground".
Obviously when this budget was prepared the sky was clouded, and by avoiding reform Tsang is digging Hong Kong into a hole.
Indecisiveness and inaction are never prudent.
I. M. Wright, Happy Valley
Fiscal image damaged by star-gazing
I am the manager of a small family-owned business here in Hong Kong.
My feet are firmly on the ground, and I don't have time for astronomy.
I always used to think that I was middle class although I know now that was a delusion.
Thanks to Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, I know that to be middle class, one should earn around HK$368,000 per month. (Does Mr Tsang's lacklustre performance really deserve such a reward package?)
Well then, I'm old middle class, one of the many whose salaries haven't risen to the meteoric heights of our politicians.
I struggle to balance my domestic budget on a monthly basis.
What if every Executive Council member was paid only the Hong Kong median income of HK$12,000?
Mr Tsang, along with his colleagues, needs re-grounding in the realities of daily Hong Kong existence for those of us left out of his middle-class dream.
I think his fiscal vision has been damaged by too much star-gazing.
Liz Gower, Lamma
Race could make more for charities
I appreciate the sentiment of Vivian Tse Wai-lam regarding the promotion of exercise in young people and their participation in the Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon ("Race's success shows change of attitude", February 28).
My only disappointment is that despite such a large number of participants, mostly amateurs, there was no arrangement for them to help out various charities. It has been a good advertisement for Standard Chartered. I also believe much of the sponsorship and entrance fees go to the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, which is correct.
However, couldn't the marathon operate like the Oxfam Trailwalker, where the participants carry sponsorships to be donated to various charities?
John Ma, Central
Curb use of adverts on busy streets
I am writing to talk about the problem of free-standing framed adverts in Hong Kong.
The activity of placing these adverts on our streets is getting out of control.
It is unacceptable that whenever people go shopping, especially in Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mong Kok, they are faced with these adverts, which can make it difficult to walk on the street.
The laws which allow the government to penalise people causing this kind of obstruction are not effective.
The fixed penalty of HK$1,500 for illegal displacement of these fixed frame adverts is not having a deterrent effect.
Sales staff employed by companies to promote their products are keen to keep their jobs. Consequently, even when they are fined by officials, and the frames are removed, once the officials go away, they put the adverts back on the street.
In some cases, officials have difficulty finding out who the owners are of these framed adverts, which are either located on the street or actually being worn by people hired to promote a company's product.
This is a grey area and makes it difficult for the government to take the necessary legal action, and so the problems caused by the adverts remain unresolved.
These obstructive street ads do not help improve the image of Hong Kong.
In addition, they raise concerns over pedestrian safety on the streets, especially when areas like Mong Kok are so crowded during weekends.
I am also concerned about the problem of advertising fliers. You see large quantities of these bills being distributed on the street and most of them end up in bins or are simply discarded on the street. This is not environmentally friendly and it makes it more difficult for cleaners to maintain the cleanliness of the city's streets.
The government has to impose higher penalties for people who are responsible for ads in frames. Higher fines can be an effective deterrent.
Officials should also look at how they can deal with grey areas.
Linda Or Nga-yin, Kwai Chung
Protesters should get real over election
I refer to the report ("'Occupy Central' may get trial run", February 25).
The attitude of those represented by Albert Chan Wai-yip amounts to saying that they have a fixed view of universal suffrage and know that what the government proposes is not what they will want so they will make people's lives hell on July 1.
I have no doubt that what this mob wants is to do away with the nomination of candidates by a nomination committee.
Yet I know this is non-negotiable.
The government, local and central, will not do away with the nomination stage of the election.
While the government does not need to give away the "how" until about two years before the 2017 election, it will be playing into the hands of this mob if it doesn't say, before July 1, that the nomination stage will not be done away with.
The government should tell them now, so that if they still go ahead with Occupy Central this year or next, any blood spilled will not be on the government's hands.
Will the pan-democrats stop talking about doing away with the nomination stage. Is that what Hong Kong people want?
Keeping the nomination stage was thoroughly debated and accepted in the Legislative Council by those representing the Hong Kong people and was tested in the 2012 election into the five super-seats of Legco.
Universal suffrage, which means the right for everybody to vote, is all that the Basic Law promised, not the right for anybody to be elected.
Peter Lok, Chai Wan
Government help needed for poor pupils
I agree with correspondents who have argued that rich students have an advantage in our society.
Their parents are able to give them the best of everything, including getting accepted to the best schools.
Students from low-income families do not have the same educational opportunities and that includes their learning environment and the limited equipment made available to them.
The government needs to provide more financial support to poor students so they have better studying opportunities. Funds should be provided so that they can go on study tours. This will enable them to go out of school and broaden their experiences. They will learn more about the world.
By helping these young people, the government is making a sensible investment as these young people are our future.
Therefore, it is a good idea to invest resources in them now.
Susan Yiu Wing-shan, Tseung Kwan O