Letters to the Editor, July 12, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 3:23am

Flexibility key to retirement plan policy

Given that people are now living for longer, many employees want to continue working beyond existing retirement ages so they can save up more for their old age.

The government has taken note of this trend and is considering raising the retirement age in the civil service to 65.

The pros and cons of such a policy must be given careful consideration before it is implemented. Of course, those people who face a heavy financial burden to look after their family will welcome the chance to save more.

However, critics of it will argue that having officials staying on for another five years will affect the promotion prospects of those people in lower ranks who want to further their careers and take on senior posts.

If there were fewer career advancement opportunities, this could adversely affect morale in the civil service.

I would suggest that the government takes a more flexible approach.

It could have a retirement age range of between 50 and 65. Civil servants who reached 60 but felt fit enough to continue working could extend their contract if they chose.

Those whose finances were in a healthy state and who did not have heavy financial commitments could choose to retire before reaching the age of 60.

They would be young enough to pursue another career if they wished.

Kwok Tak-ming, Wong Tai Sin


Sharif should seek to tap India's energy

I refer to the report ("Pakistan PM begins maiden China trip", July 4).

It is good to know that Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went to China to ask Beijing to help his country with its worst economic and energy crisis since 1948.

As one academic from Peshawar University said, Islamabad is "seeking Chinese help to provide 100 per cent electricity to its people and industries".

However, with regard to energy needs, I think it would be better for Mr Sharif, following his China visit, to try to arrange an official trip to India in an effort to solve the electricity problems that have plagued his country for three decades.

He should try and reach agreement for India to supply 50 per cent of Pakistan's electricity supply needs.

This could help to bring the two nations closer together and improve the prospects for peace between them. This is important given we are talking about two nuclear powers.

K. M. Nasir, Mid-Levels


Land exchange can fix range of social ills

I agree with those who say that a swift response is needed from the government to meet Hong Kong's housing needs.

It needs a five- to six-year programme to make a difference.

I am pleased that the chief executive has recognised the problems that exist and that he and his ministers emphasise the importance of providing land for decent housing at affordable prices for all Hong Kong people.

We have sky-high prices and rents because of previous administrations adopting the wrong policies. They did not want to stop the hot money coming from the mainland or displease local property tycoons.

I would say that the government has ignored the basic need for decent housing for the past five to six years. Demand has grown with more migrants from the mainland.

The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has not helped matters.

Over the past decade, I believe, it has mainly looked after the needs of the tycoons. In so doing it has failed to solve basic housing problems. Its slum clearance programmes with old buildings have been painfully slow. Even a scheme to build homes for the sandwich class was delayed.

The perception is that the URA has often served the needs of tycoons rather than those of the community. With any redevelopment projects aimed at helping the community, the developers have always wanted to make sure they enjoyed a healthy profit.

The housing shortage and high rents remained and subdivided housing came into being.

There is a great need for more housing, better infrastructure, education and hospitals, and for more medical colleges to provide doctors and nurses. All these measures take a great deal of planning.

Former senior official Sir David Akers-Jones has revived the idea of land exchange to accelerate a viable public housing programme ("Land exchange best hope for urban growth", June 15).

With 150 new migrants arriving every day, our population is growing and, as he points out, surrender of land through this exchange mechanism can ensure that projects for new flats, schools and hospitals can be completed with greater speed.

A. L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui


Complacency the enemy in hygiene war

Hong Kong seemed to have learned important lessons from the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak 10 years ago.

Yet, earlier this year when there was a bird flu scare on the mainland, doubts were raised about the capacity of our health-care system to cope if the virus spread.

The fact is that the precautions we were told to take during Sars are just as important today, that is, maintaining good hygiene, improving sewage systems in buildings and strengthening the cross-border notification system. There are clearly loopholes with the cross-border set-up and ill people could still come over from the mainland even during an outbreak of a virus. This is something that should be addressed.

I am also concerned about the poor hygiene environment of Hong Kong. During the Sars outbreak, senior officials, including then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, took initiatives to clean up our streets and reminded citizens to maintain good standards of hygiene. However, many people seem to have forgotten that message and we dump rubbish on our streets and in alleys between buildings full of rats.

Awareness of good hygiene, such as washing your hands, is still taught in schools. However, the message has to be got across to all citizens.

Government policies need to change. When there is an outbreak of a virus, the Immigration Department must step up checks at border crossings.

Also, the government must step up its education programme with more advertisements on TV to try and get citizens to return to the good hygiene practices (such as regular hand washing) that became habits during Sars.

The key to avoiding tragedies during an outbreak is prevention and this requires a community-wide effort.

Tiffany Yeung Sin-yee, Tsuen Wan


Use resources wisely to stop animal cruelty

There were calls earlier this year for a special animal police unit to be established to curb animal abuse in Hong Kong.

Although officers already work hard to catch people who are cruel to animals, we still keep reading about cases of abuse.

I can understand why people are calling for such a unit to be established.

They want to see a decrease in these cases of cruelty in the city, but I am not convinced this is the best way to deal with the problem.

I have come across few examples of these police units being set up in other places. Officers would have to be specially trained in animal handling and treatment skills, then deployed specifically to the unit.

This would lead to a substantial utilisation of available resources.

I think officers could achieve the same results and be more cost-effective if during investigations they co-ordinated with veterinarians operating in the Hong Kong. The police force comes in for a lot of criticism and limited resources could be better used in other areas of police operations.

However, if any dedicated unit is to be set up to protect animals, there must first be a lot a research and an extensive consultation process to prove that there is a need for such a unit.

Isaac Fong, Kwai Chung


Don't destroy Lantau idyll for shop zone

I have been opposed to proposals to develop part of Lantau into a commercial zone, with more shopping malls in Tung Chung.

The reason behind this proposal, suggested by a business group, is to take tourists away from overcrowded districts such as Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay. I do not think the idea is feasible.

These busy districts are famous tourist spots and they are traditionally popular with visitors from the mainland.

They are also popular because of their proximity to Victoria Harbour and people can enjoy the prestigious harbour view.

Also, there are shopping malls everywhere in the built-up parts of Hong Kong.

It would be nothing special to build a few more malls in a Lantau commercial zone, and unrealistic to expect it would be enough to attract tourists.

Every place has its own unique characteristics, so Tsim Sha Tsui is a popular urban area. The main attraction of Lantau is its natural scenery and at present tourists will visit urban Hong Kong to shop and come to Lantau for its rural charm.

It is important to maintain this diversity with regard to popular tourist spots so that visitors have more choices.

Angel Cheung Kin-yi, Sha Tin