Letters to the Editor, February 7, 2014
Tung Chung swamped by mainlanders
I wish the secretary for commerce and economic development, Gregory So Kam-leung, could have spent some time in Tung Chung on Monday, the public holiday.
He would seen at first hand how Hong Kong is failing to cope with the enormous crowds of mainland visitors.
Tung Chung was so crowded that local residents wondered how and to where they might escape. When Mr So tells us Hong Kong is capable of handling double the present number of visitors, he displays an alarming lack of understanding about day-to-day conditions in Hong Kong's neighbourhoods.
Another minister who would have benefited from the trip to Tung Chung that day is the environment secretary, Wong Kam-sing. The overflowing rubbish bins and cast-off packaging from frenzied shopping might have caused him to question who creates most of the rubbish destined for landfills.
Michael Chugani is right when he says Hong Kong needs to rethink the welcome it extends to visitors ("Spillover effect", January 25).
I am expecting a visit from friends in Spain later this year, 15 years after their last visit. I have to wonder what they will make of Hong Kong this time around. I imagine they will find the crowds very oppressive and the city's famed shopping one-dimensional, now that every neighbourhood store is in the game of selling designer boots, designer bags, or cosmetics.
Without any guidance from me, they have decided to spend only two of their 10 days in Asia here and the remainder in Singapore. Perhaps that's a wise choice.
Desmond Decker, Tung Chung
Bureau has duty to save Montessori
More than 300 families and their children will be deprived of their favourite school before they break for the summer if the Education Bureau continues to neglect its duty to help the International Montessori School to secure a lease for the Tin Hau premises it has occupied for some years.
The Education Bureau has been economical with the truth in saying the school entered into a private agreement with the landlord in which the government has no part to play at all.
As a matter of fact, I understand that the land, designated for educational use, was granted to the landlord in the 1960s to operate a school there.
In addition, it was the bureau which introduced the school and the landlord to each other when the premises were no longer in use.
Policy-wise, I should like to remind the bureau about the shortage of international schools in Hong Kong as its 2013 report suggested.
Our city is going to lose out in the global competition for talent if the problem is not handled properly.
The expectations of the school's parents are very reasonable and it is in Hong Kong's interest that such expectations are met. I therefore give the International Montessori School community my full support and I ask the government to do the same.
The school now waits for the government to take action.
Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, legislative councillor (Hong Kong Island), Civic Party
Overhaul of tax system long overdue
John Tsang Chun-wah has been financial secretary for almost seven years and still does not think that a sales tax is warranted, even though he admits that our tax base is too narrow.
I agree with Stephen Brown ("Time to stop using cash accounting", January 23) and your columnist Philip Bowring ("Enough scare stories, Mr Tsang", January 26) that our financial secretary is far behind the times and that our revenue collection needs a thorough overhaul as it is no longer fit for purpose.
Reliance on returns from one-off land sales and profits tax makes for a poorly controlled system. An ongoing land tax, similar to rates, would serve Hong Kong's coffers better, and reduce the overbearing influence of the handful of major tycoons who control the bidding for land.
A goods and services tax charging each individual transaction is too cumbersome and bureaucratic, but a sales tax on companies is simple to implement and effective. After all, sales at the till are passed back to businesses where it is easy to tax the accumulated sum. In this context, I also refer to the report ("City may be losing out on billions, say experts", January 23). It is obvious that the ownership of offshore companies by Hong Kong residents is against the interests of the man in the street. The extent and the influential parties involved is disconcerting.
A sales tax is much harder to circumvent than a profit tax which can be discounted in any number of ways, particularly by transfer pricing, and loans and service agreements between subsidiaries and sister companies.
The standard riposte is that "we fully comply with regulatory, tax and legal requirements of the countries in which they operate". Probably so, but is it moral and ethical?
These firms reap, but do not sow. Tsang should close the door, instead of complacently turning a blind eye.
Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels
7-Eleven not out of place in Lan Kwai Fong
I refer to Lai See columnist Howard Winn's piece ("New 7-Eleven in Lan Kwai Fong dismays bar owners", January 29).
7-Eleven operates three stores in the Lan Kwai Fong area in full compliance with the law. We prohibit consumption of alcohol in our stores in accordance with the licensing conditions, and in addition the company policy is not to sell alcoholic beverages to customers under the age of 18.
As detailed in Lai See, this is not a legal requirement but is 7-Eleven's own policy. Notices are clearly displayed in our stores with these requirements.
We do not agree with Lai See's argument that "it is hardly a level playing field to have 7-Elevens operating in the area". 7-Eleven operates lawfully in Lan Kwai Fong as a convenience store and we compete on a like-for-like basis with regard to rental negotiations with landlords.
We have also had to pay a large sum to fit out the store premises. In addition, we have to employ staff and we expect that both ourselves and the bars, most of whom are part of a larger group, purchase our goods at similar prices.
Lai See calls the coexistence of bars and convenience stores "bizarre", but there is nothing bizarre for a landlord to lease his store to 7-Eleven.
What is perhaps more bizarre is that Lai See seems to be suggesting that convenience stores should not be allowed in the area because the bars' business interests have to be protected.
I suggest we let the customers decide where they should buy their drinks from.
Tim Chalk, CEO, 7-Eleven Hong Kong and Macau
Handouts are no solution in the long term
Opinions vary widely about the best way to deal with poverty.
Some believe that giving cash handouts is the best option. They argue the government has sufficient reserves and a lump sum can make a difference. However, I disagree with that. I would expect the administration to come up with long-term measures rather than opting for lump sums.
While one survey indicated that people in need prefer a cash handout, it does not get to the root of the problem.
In previous budgets there have been handouts, such as the HK$6,000 to permanent residents. I hope our government will not repeat this mistake.
There are many needy Hongkongers, such as the elderly, people from the grass roots and children. They all have different demands and, as I said, we have to get to the root of the problem. Most people over 65 can no longer work and they need special attention when it comes to government policy. They deserve additional subsidies so they can meet their daily expenses.
Many people from the grass roots are without work. To help them, the government must find ways to increase their opportunities for employment.
For the children, the focus should be on increased subsidies for low-income families targeted at education - for example, textbooks and help with transport expenses.
Raymond Chan Kwun-hin, Tseung Kwan O
Small-house policy has run its course
I refer to the report ("Kuk chief fortunate not to pick unlucky stick", February 2) and the No4 fortune stick drawn by Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat at the Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin.
Lau commented that "we bring misfortune on ourselves; we shouldn't do things we ought not to do".
It is therefore time to call order on the so-called small- house policy which is creating disharmony.
This policy has been thoroughly milked by parties that do not deserve such a bountiful windfall. Most people see this as grossly unfair, and favouring a few influential indigenous landowners, at a time when many people throughout Hong Kong are struggling to cope economically.
If the original intention of the administrative action is upheld, a resolution and the closure of such loopholes should not be difficult.
However, the recent announcement that a new political party is to be formed specifically to further the kuk's interests indicates entrenchment and intransigence on these thorny matters ("Kuk leader reveals details of plan to form new party", January 27).
P. C. Law, Quarry Bay