Letters to the Editor, December 2, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 3:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 12:45pm

More trams would alleviatebus route woes

Having seen a TV news report on minibus operators' concern on routes losing money and their wish to cancel them, I feel obliged to express my opinion on the woes of Hong Kong's transportation system.

Rising costs due to petrol and driver shortage are realities plaguing bus and minibus operators in Hong Kong, resulting in fare hikes and route cancellations. However, the general populace has to rely on buses - if not solely railways - for their daily commute and other activities.

Surely the present situation is not sustainable. In addition, many of the trunk routes are still served by bus/minibus, with unreliable scheduling, traffic jams, and inefficient loading/unloading all undermining the carrying capacity.

To invest more in rapid transit might be a good way out, but it is not as convenient as buses. Rapid transit is almost always underground and it requires walks, often long, to and from localities.

I propose that light rail (tramways) be introduced too and expanded in major urban areas in Hong Kong, especially Kowloon where development is dense and tramways are not present. On Hong Kong Island the current tramway system should be made use of and greatly expanded. It should take the form of a grid which most people can access within walking distance.

Routes should be organised on a corridor basis with frequent headways, and unlimited interchanges allowed. Validation and payment should be done at the entrance/exit of platforms, like the Light Rail system in the northwestern New Territories.

Although costlier to start up, tramway operating costs are lower than bus/minibus routes and more financially advantageous given the dense urban fabric of Hong Kong. Also, tramway corridors can encourage development in sparse and underdeveloped neighbourhoods, helping to solve the housing problem. Tramways do not compete with rapid transit; their functions are different, but complementary. Opponents will say the right-of-way of light rail takes up road space, but given that most travel in Hong Kong is via public transport, it is justifiable.

Raphael Mak, Mid-Levels


Free meals for the needy will cut food waste

"Suspended meal" is a term adapted from "suspended coffee" in Italy, where it has been used to help poor people. It is a concept that should be promoted widely. Customers can buy extra meals (or drinks) so that the poor or homeless can enjoy the meals freely.

Many restaurants in Hong Kong have suspended meals, including one in Sham Shui Po that provides hot meals every day to underprivileged people and the homeless.

In Hung Hom, there are coffee shops that have this service. Taiwan already has a lot of restaurants providing suspended meals.

Besides helping poor people, the service also reduces the amount of food waste. Restaurants or bakeries can also donate leftovers to food banks or non-government organisations like Foodlink.

Supermarkets in Hong Kong, which throw out large quantities of edible food every day, have a responsibility to donate food to help poor people.

The government should encourage these stores to introduce suspended meals to assist those people who barely make a living.

Wendy Tsang Sze-wing, Sheung Shui


Funding is key factor in schools debate

I refer to the article by Anjali Hazari ("Grouping students by ability works in language classes", November 26).

In local schools the question of ability grouping is important and controversial.

On the one hand, "inclusivity" is a feature of Hong Kong's education system and something to be proud of - and there is a wealth of research supporting its benefits.

On the other hand, as in my experience as a native English-speaking teacher in a local school, there is much to be said for the increased personal- isation of learning in smaller, more focused classrooms with a narrower range of ability.

In both cases, the decisive factor is funding, that is, whether children with special needs can be supported or extended in mixed ability groups with teaching assistants, or whether there are enough teachers to plan and deliver streamed classes.

Either way, I would suggest that hard-working local teachers more than fulfil their side of the bargain as Hazari suggests: through differentiation of activities and outcomes in class.

It's up to legislators to do likewise with funding.

Simon Brenen, Kwun Tong


Free-to-air TVdecision puts quality at risk

There was public outrage over the contentious issue of free-to-air TV licences and the decision not to grant one to Hong Kong Television Network (HKTV).

I agree with those who argue that it was unfair that of the three bids, only HKTV was left out.

Given that the city has been described as having the freest economy in the world, it should offer a level playing field to all participants.

There was no justifiable reason for the government to leave out HKTV, but give the green light to PCCW and iCable.

What made it worse is that the government has remained tight-lipped when asked for a full explanation of its reasons, citing the confidentiality system in Exco. It is felt that the administration bowed to immense political pressure.

At present, two free-to-air providers, ATV and TVB, have little incentive to bring out quality products.

The government should be ensuring there is enough competition in this important part of the entertainment industry, to ensure better-quality output.

And while it would be competitive with more licences, in a free market it is all about survival of the fittest.

Cathy Li, Tsuen Wan


Lessons must be learned in licence saga

I hope the government has learned its lesson from the free-to-air TV licence saga and that it will ensure greater transparency in future.

I understand the principle of confidentiality in Exco, but Hongkongers were entitled to know the reasons behind the decision. Refusing to give that explanation leads to conflict.

That full explanation (of why HKTV was refused a licence), should come from the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Katherine Ng Tsz-ying,Kowloon Bay


Firm stance needed on tax loopholes

I refer to the report ("Taxing times for Apple", November 26). It is obvious Apple's attraction to Singapore is not Orchard Road, the prime retail location, but the accommodating tax regime in that jurisdiction.

Multinational companies, such as Apple, appear greedily self-centred when it comes to paying their dues, and in effect are making local tax collecting "pear-shaped".

Countries fundamentally possess just two assets. Firstly, the land, the air above, and any seas surrounding, and, secondly, their people. A binding principle should be that when companies use these assets they must pay tax or fees as that jurisdiction's society requires.

When I purchase a product or service in Hong Kong I should have a legitimate expectation that our local population will benefit from the corporate tax derived as a result of my purchase. It is essentially immoral and unscrupulous that corporate tax lawyers devise convoluted schemes to circumvent society's licit needs.

Corporations weave a web of opaque transactions, circling the globe, to avoid tax responsibilities. As a guiding precept, if a company makes business by selling to customers or clients in Hong Kong then they must pay their full Hong Kong dues on that income.

Our Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, should take a firm stance to close financial loopholes by switching from the easily-avoided profits tax to a corporate sales tax which is more difficult to evade.

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels


Traffic hell in shoppers' paradise

Causeway Bay may be a crowded victim of its own success as a "shoppers' paradise", but one would expect our powers that be to give some thought to the safety and well-being of the locals who live and travel through there.

The traffic situation in Patterson Street has become a joke, with illegally parked and double parked cars (mostly seven-seaters) forcing minibuses to often disgorge their passengers in the middle of the road. They must then scramble through cars and trucks to get to the pavement.

These cars park illegally for hours with impunity, motors running, spewing exhaust fumes over the hundreds of commuters waiting in bus queues.

Where are our traffic wardens? Nary a one to be seen. Can't we afford this public service?

Hong Kong people are a remarkably patient and easygoing lot, but I sense a growing resentment towards those luxury retail outlets that take unfair advantage of unpunished illegal parking, which conveniences their well-heeled customers to the detriment of us all.

Noel Quinlan, North Point