Letters to the Editor, November 16, 2013

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 3:52am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 3:52am

Playing the big shot with public money

I refer to Jake van der Kamp's column ("London property not the best investment option for HKMA", November 10).

What the man in the street wants to know is: if the Hong Kong Monetary Authority is so keen to invest in property, why has it not used what is after all public funds to build good quality developments that would help address some of the local housing problems?

The authority could have invested in a model development suited for young people or a building incorporating specially adapted units for the elderly with on-site support services. Well-planned and well-managed developments of this nature can be run at a profit and the invested capital would, despite predicted falls in property prices, show a healthy growth in value in the long term. A successful project would have encouraged private developers to invest in similar projects.

In view of the need for medical services, the authority could have built a private hospital and then leased it out to expert management.

An extensive park-and-ride facility at Sunny Bay to accommodate the thousands of vehicles that will arrive in the territory in 2016 when the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge opens would be another lucrative and timely investment.

Here we have another example of a public organisation investing in overseas markets when there is ample opportunity to use the funds locally.

Van der Kamp alludes to the Hong Kong Mortgage Corporation. Its core mission is "to promote wider home ownership in Hong Kong", yet it has invested in taxi licences when it should be supporting aspiring local homeowners.

The administration continues to make excuses for declining living standards while allowing the managers of public financial institutions to play at being big-shot tycoons with our money.

P. Kumar, for Tsim Sha Tsui Residents' Concern Group


Reluctance to take medical research path

I refer to the article by Henry Hin Lee Chan ("How Hong Kong can produce a Nobel laureate in medicine", November 8).

Unlike in other developed economies, local medical graduates are reluctant to go down the research path. They would prefer the kudos and financial rewards that go with joining a medical practice after leaving university. Funding for research should be feasible, but there is a lack of recognition regarding it.

Not only has the government discouraged research and innovation, but society as a whole places greater emphasis on utilitarianism and opportunism.

Professor Chan talks about the possible introduction of the "North American system, where a medical degree becomes a postgraduate programme" and describes this as radical. However, I do not think such an approach should be considered radical in Hong Kong, but rather a natural progression.

Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long


Our scientists suffer from lack of support

Some correspondents and commentators have written about what they perceive as the negative public view of research, saying that this attitude leaves our scientists feeling undervalued.

I agree that society does not place much emphasis on the importance of scientific research and Hongkongers' attitude towards it is not positive. Scientists doing research here struggle because of a lack of support.

People seem to think that earning money is more important than research and development. Most parents will encourage their children to study business at college so they can secure a job with good prospects. Fewer students are encouraged to embrace science as a lifelong career. This is regrettable, given how important it is to all of us.

Because they are undervalued in our society, scientific research projects do not get sufficient financial support. Sadly, our two well-known technology-oriented sites, Cyberport and the Science and Technology Parks, cannot really achieve their purpose.

It is ironic to see that on the one hand, the government is advocating the importance of developing creative industries, but on the other hand, they are ignored. The problem is also seen in universities. Researchers are given limited budgets to carry out their work, with projects sometimes delayed or cancelled due to insufficient funds.

Scientific research will only flourish in Hong Kong when we start taking the work scientists do seriously.

Cheng Ka-yi, Sheung Shui


Decision on TV licences was unfair

If the government had granted Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV) a free-to-air licence, it would have benefited the performing artists and other people working in show business and the public. The artists would have more job opportunities and the public would have more choice of television programmes.

TVB has enjoyed its virtual monopoly in the free-to-air television broadcasting market for many years, with no strong competitors. As a result, the quality of the programmes has been decreasing.

Hong Kong viewers wanted HKTV to be granted the licence because they want more viewing options.

HKTV's chairman, Ricky Wong Wai-kay, invested a substantial sum in the station and earmarked a site for filming and broadcasting. It had produced dramas which received public support.

The government's decision to reject HKTV's bid was unfair and unreasonable and made against the advice of the Communications Authority, which recommended that all three licence bids be accepted.

Therefore, it is clear the selection process was unfair, because the same standards were not applied to all three applicants. HKTV deserves to have its bid accepted if it meets the requirements for a free-to-air TV licence.

Christy Wu Sze-lam, Kowloon Tong


Idling ban law may need fine-tuning

I support the idling engine ban legislation - with reservations.

On the plus side, the ban has led to a slight improvement in air quality in the city.

However, there is a negative side, with drivers concerned about the effect on their engines, if they are frequently turned off and on again. And it can get extremely hot inside a vehicle during the summer.

One way to solve the idling engine problem once and for all would be to have electric cars rather than models using petrol and diesel, so there would be no emissions. Officials need to keep seeking the opinions of citizens and fine-tune the law where necessary.

Emily Wong, Lai Chi Kok


Index not a valid guide to English skills

I refer to the article by William Wang ("Hongkongers need to learn English from an early age", November 11). He makes the recommendation highlighted in your headline because of Hong Kong's ranking on the Education First (EF)English Proficiency Index.

Policy decisions about English education should not be based on this index. Countries with low scores should not despair and countries with high scores should not rejoice. I do not think the EF index is a valid measure of a country's English competence.

Half of a country's score on the index is based on a test given only to those enrolled in private English-language schools.

It therefore only tests beginners and intermediates, and excludes those who speak English well, who have no need to take such a course. It also excludes those who cannot afford to take a private course.

The other half of a country's score is based on an internet exam that is freely open to anybody who wants to take it, which means it is limited to those with easy access to computers and the internet, and who are curious about their level of English.

This is not the way to measure a nation's English language proficiency.

Stephen Krashen, professor emeritus, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California, US


Poverty gap is dividing our society

The problem of poverty in Hong Kong is getting more serious and it can adversely affect the harmony and stability of society.

A widening wealth gap leads to a breakdown in communication and growing feelings of resentment by people in poverty towards the rich.

They hate monopolies in the city, which they blame for the rising prices of commodities that make their lives harder.

They feel angry and this leads to greater conflict. Many citizens who are poor have low education levels. They lack the skills and knowledge that would enable them to find work or get a better-paid job than the one they already have.

The government needs to offer more subsidies so people can do vocational training, get better jobs and improve the quality of their lives. They need to be given enough financially while doing these courses or they may be forced to abandon them in order to find work to support their families.

Also, when it comes to providing affordable housing, I know that the problems with the property market cannot be solved overnight. However, if the administration adopts long-term strategies then I think the situation will improve and we will eventually see a more harmonious society.

Chan Hei-ling, Ho Man Tin