Letters to the Editor, January 16, 2014
Ensuring reliable supply of electricity
In response to your columnist Albert Cheng King-hon ("CLP tariff rise cannot be justified", December 20), we would like to explain the government's gatekeeping role under the Scheme of Control Agreements with the two power companies.
The electricity tariff is made up of the basic tariff and the fuel clause charge.
The basic tariff rate for each company needs to be agreed by the government under periodic review of development plans proposed by the companies. Their plans include their projections on, for example, capital expenditure, operational expenses and annual sales.
The government critically reviews the need, timing and budget of the proposed capital investments and accepts proposals which are absolutely necessary to ensure the public will enjoy a reliable, safe and environmentally friendly electricity supply at a reasonable price.
As a result, the estimated capital expenditure in the power companies' 2014-18 development plans was cut by about 49 per cent and 21 per cent respectively against their original proposals.
As for the fuel clause charge, as this depends on market fuel prices, we seek the support of an independent energy consultant in considering the companies' estimate of the likely fuel prices in the coming years and make an assessment of the reasonableness of such an estimation.
The Scheme of Control Agreement has a mechanism via the Tariff Stabilisation Fund to ameliorate tariff increases or stabilise tariff levels.
In order to ensure the fund can properly serve its purpose, the government and the two power companies agreed to maintain the forecast fund balance at a reasonable level during the discussion in the annual tariff review.
Since 2009, the forecast Tariff Stabilisation Fund balances of CLP have been set at around HK$100 million to HK$300 million.
The forecast balance of some HK$300 million by the end of 2014 in the current review is not a new arrangement, which is, as with the forecast for each of the following years up to 2018, far below the cap of 5 per cent of CLP's annual total revenues from local sales.
It is clear that the government has been carefully monitoring the financial performance of the two power companies.
Vyora Yau, principal assistant secretary for the environment (financial monitoring)
Young people in HK polite and helpful
I have travelled widely, and the lack of manners and respect for the elderly as stated by a number of your correspondents when writing about Hong Kong is in the minority.
An example of consideration for other people occurred recently on the MTR in Kowloon. A young man offered me his seat; smiles were exchanged. On another journey on the MTR, two students offered their seats to my granddaughter and me.
This was not the only courtesy shown during my visit.
Friendly staff at a shopping centre were most helpful. Regardless of the language difficulties, and there were many, a smile, along with hand gestures, opened dialogue and understanding.
You see, to gain acceptance and courtesy, one must show good manners in return.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Hong Kong and I am looking forward to returning soon.
L. Anne Kruger, Mount Martha,Victoria, Australia
We really need a sustainable housing policy
I strongly disagree with the suggestion that flats could be constructed in country park land.
These parks make up 40 per cent of land in Hong Kong and they are the only green lung in this concrete jungle.
If the government allows flats to be built there, Hong Kong citizens will lose part of this beautiful, natural treasure.
This is not the way to go about trying to solve the city's housing problems.
It would adversely affect the habitats of animals, and lead to noise and air pollution problems in the parks, because of construction projects.
It is important not to upset the balance between conservation and the need for urban development projects.
We can only deal with our housing problems by coming up with long-term solutions and the use of country parks is not one of them.
What do we do a few years from now - use more country park land? Do we keep building on this land until all of it has disappeared?
Hong Kong will continue to have population and housing problems. As I said, they can only be dealt with effectively by the government adopting long-term housing strategies.
Also, whatever policies are adopted must strike a balance between development and conservation.
What officials must not do is focus on short-term returns.
Vicky Lui, Cheung Sha Wan
Wasteful ads sending wrong message
I refer to the report announcing how shop windows will be turned into advertising screens ("Shop windows that watch the window shoppers", January 9). Wonderful.
I doubt I am alone in thinking we are already exposed to sufficient advertising. Encouraging even greater consumption through advertising is not the way we need to be thinking if we are to realistically expect a benign future for our society.
Overconsumption drives increasing resource and energy demand, and in turn this is creating massive problems for us.
We are experiencing species loss due to habitat destruction at a rate such that it has been described as the Sixth Extinction, comparable to prior episodes in the fossil record when massive die-offs of species have occurred.
The indifference among our governments and citizenry is deeply troubling with regard to rapidly escalating climate instability that results from our energy-hungry behaviour and reliance on cheap fossil fuels to drive economic growth, and the refusal to accept that, without cheap energy, such growth is unlikely. You can't eat shareholder value.
These issues will not simply go away. In fact they will get worse, unless we begin to recognise that really quite drastic changes are urgently needed to our perceptions of what benefits us all (not just a greedy minority) and what does not.
There is no escaping the fact that all of us need to use less of everything, every day, if we are to have a life worth living.
Until the adverts start to say that, more advertising will remain unwelcome.
Richard Fielding, Pok Fu Lam
Grim future for wildlife and our air
My son is eight. We live in Hong Kong and I wonder what he will see in the Hong Kong of his adulthood.
At the airport, a display of Lantau's wildlife takes a prime spot and we are told that it is rich in its biodiversity. But for all the photos of dolphins, horseshoe crabs, mud skippers and fiddler crabs, where are they now?
The new road across the Pearl River estuary has an attached flotilla of the world's largest assembly of cranes, barges and dredgers.
It is a construction project without measure. Environmental impact assessments were made, as is the norm, worthless documents which tick the right boxes.
Development titans call our environment "a platform", we work on it, not with it; it's just part of the plan.
Like the air in Beijing, it is part of the plan to reduce air quality to barely breathable proportions.
When on a flight and you begin the descent to Hong Kong, even after breathing debatable air from the aircraft's bleed systems, Hong Kong's atmosphere hits your nostrils at around 2,000 metres, like some potent hammer.
We get used to it, as we get used to the wearing of surgical masks, bird flu and the irritation of environmental salvationists.
As we journey towards a world of greater connectivity, bridge tolls and what was, as my son steps into bigger shoes and Mai Po slips under a bitumen blanket and the dolphins are reduced to platform silt, he will surely ask: why?
Stu Pryke, Sai Kung
Be tolerant towards mainlanders
We often read about the behaviour of mainland visitors to Hong Kong and how some of them disrupt the lives of local residents.
However, while there are a lot of complaints against these people, I would only agree that some of them behave badly when they are in the city.
We have to appreciate that China is a developing country. Many citizens have not been able to enjoy high educational levels.
They are accustomed to behaving and speaking brusquely.
I believe the behaviour of mainlanders will improve with a better standard of education. In cities which have made considerable advances in recent years, such as Shanghai and Beijing, people behave well and welcome tourists.
Another problem is that some Hong Kong people overreact to situations.
These visitors will not realise their faults until someone tells them.
Those local people who have been overcritical need to rethink their attitude.
Candy Wong Tsz-ching, Sha Tin