Letters to the Editor, March 14, 2014

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 4:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 5:22am

Net benefit of tourism must match impact

Some years ago, in Wan Chai, a new high-rise block of flats was erected on a cleared site.

No sooner had it been completed and certified for occupation than it was knocked down (to later build a more profitable office block) and we were back to a bare site. The erection of the building and the subsequent demolition both counted towards gross domestic product, but the net result was that there was no net gain.

It is much the same with tourism, lots of activity contributing some "4.5 per cent" says Commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung to our GDP but wherein lies the net gain?

In their columns, Tom Holland and Jake van der Kamp have written more eloquently than I explaining that by the time we work out the costs of all we need to provide to tourists, from water to buses to the articles they buy, we achieve a net gain of perhaps 1 per cent of GDP.

That 1 per cent is essentially employment. Some 230,000 low-skilled jobs created has been quoted. But hang on a minute, aren't we short of people in a range of sectors such as medical and social services, to the extent that importing such people is being considered?

Why not train these tourism-focused people to do more worthwhile jobs, thus lifting their skill and income levels, obviating the need to import such skills, and, equally topically, the need to house these extra people?

Then if we honestly accounted for the net benefits of tourism - perhaps a miserly 1 per cent of GDP - we could measure these against the well-publicised impacts to the people of Hong Kong, and decide if the net benefits justified the real costs.

Clive Noffke, Lantau


Mainlanders should abide by HK rules

Officials have been asked to react to the impact that the influx of mainlanders is having on Hong Kong.

Many areas of Hong Kong are now swamped by mainland visitors, including Tung Chung and Ma On Shan.

The problem is compounded by the fact that many of them do not comply with local by-laws, such as no eating and drinking in MTR stations or on trains. On arrival they want to eat something.

Safety is very important, especially on public transport. Announcements from the operators should be heeded by all users, including mainland passengers, such as not using your mobile phone while on a moving escalator.

They need to recognise that it is in their interests to listen to these announcements, if they care about their own personal safety.

There have been past incidents, when for example, mainland visitors came here, bought tins of milk formula in bulk and then returned with it over the border.

This caused shortages here and now there are restrictions on how many tins can be taken back to the mainland.

This is another rule and like all Hong Kong's by-laws and regulations it is important that mainland citizens coming here recognise them and obey them.

What matters in this regard is that rules and laws are obeyed by everyone in the city.

Chantel Cheung, Tseung Kwan O


Border mall no panacea for overcrowding

There have been calls for a mega-mall to be built at the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint.

Those who support it argue that the city can no longer cope with the influx of mainland visitors. They talk of jam-packed MTR trains and shortages of necessities. A large shopping mall near the border would relieve this pressure.

It will take a long time to build such a mall, because you are starting from scratch. A site has to be chosen, studies undertaken and affected residents consulted. When developing major infrastructure projects you cannot take shortcuts. Therefore, building a mall is not an option to alleviate this problem.

One new mall will not satisfy the needs of mainlanders. Of course, many come to shop and buy cheap, good-quality products, but that is not the sole reason.

Others want to enjoy Hong Kong's stunning views and mouthwatering local cuisine.

Mainlanders love eating local food in Mong Kok, and visiting Canton Road to buy their favourite Louis Vuitton handbags. Then they head for the waterfront to enjoy the Symphony of Lights in Victoria Harbour. These places on Kowloon side are understandably very popular. So why would these visitors just go to a mall at the border with the sole purpose of shopping?

The government should think twice before deciding to implement the Lok Ma Chau mall proposal.

If it cannot solve the problems caused by mainland shoppers once and for all, then it would be a waste of both money and time to build it.

Tang Sha-lee, Kowloon Tong


Put bicycles in first and last MTR carriages

I refer to recent letters complaining about bicycles on trains.

The suggestion to ban them is bad. We should be encouraging the use of bicycles, not discouraging them.

Passengers have a right to transport their baggage on trains, but large objects, not only bicycles, can inconvenience other passengers at peak travel times.

Those who use trains to commute know where the platform exits are located and try to occupy trains at a point close to their intended platform exit.

Platform exits are not usually at the ends of platforms, so the first and last carriages are usually more empty than other carriages.

If the MTR Corporation feels the need to control bicycles and other bulky goods, I suggest it allows them in the first and last carriages only.

Robert Wilson, Discovery Bay


Unacceptable obstruction on crowded trains

Regarding Doug Miller's letter ("Bicycles on MTR trains unacceptable", March 3), I think there is no doubt that bicycles in MTR carriages are an inconvenience for passengers.

They can block people who are boarding and alighting from the train.

Therefore it is unacceptable to allow cyclists to bring their bikes onto MTR trains.

If a by-law does not exist banning bicycles from the network, then it is definitely time for the MTR Corporation to introduce one.

I am also concerned about the common complaint of passengers crowding at the entrance of an MTR coach rather than moving into the centre of the carriage.

This can make it very difficult for people on the platform to board, especially during busy periods.

People should learn not to be so selfish when travelling on MTR trains.

They have to try not to disturb other passengers.

Jaden Ho Lok-hin, Tseung Kwan O


Give electorate chance to vote 'for' or 'against'

I. M. Wright is certainly not wrong in his letter ("Voters must be given a real choice", March 9).

It seems that our government and the establishment want to apply the old communist treatise that "it is fine having free elections, as long as we know the result beforehand".

To give people a fair chance to express their view of the candidates may I suggest that the ballot paper allows the option of voting either "for" or "against" the candidate?

The count would be based on the aggregate, so establishment stooges could be in for a shock.

I agree that the system that the authorities seem to be planning for us will lead to popular frustration and deep feelings of disenfranchisement, and possibly social instability.

Being able to vote negatively against a candidate is democratically far preferable to simply abstaining or spoiling the ballot.

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels


One child trend shows parents care

A survey has shown that many young couples are choosing to have only one child.

I can understand why they make this decision in our modern society.

In the past in Hong Kong most families had four to five children and parents often kept working.

There is now a heightened concept of parental care with one parent sometimes leaving their job to look after their child.

Of course they could always leave the child in a day-care centre or with a domestic helper, but some couples do not have sufficient faith either in the centres or the helpers.

Parents nowadays recognise the importance of spending a lot of time with their sons and daughters when they are very young.

Overall, I see nothing wrong with the trend in Hong Kong of couples deciding to have only one child.

Chapman Wong, Sha Tin


Official car parking sets a bad example

I was at two concerts at the Cultural Centre last week.

As usual, there was a vigilant parking attendant to shoo away cars officiously.

But on both occasions, government cars with AM plates were not only allowed smilingly to linger, but protectively parked within cones and without their drivers for the duration of the concerts.

Is this a good example for government grandees to set?

David Tang, Central