Letters to the Editor, April 19, 2014
Electric taxis are not the solution
I refer to Pang Chi-ming's letter ("Electric taxis plug into plans for greener city", April 14). I am not so sure that electric taxis are a benefit to Hong Kong.
Firstly, there is an assumption that taxis and private cars are major contributors to dangerous roadside pollution.
This assumption is rarely questioned here, even though 90 per cent of private cars in Hong Kong are recent models and emit almost no sulphur pollutants. Taxis do emit pollutants, but as all of them are now LPG, they emit little or no sulphur pollutants. These pollutants are the major health hazard at roadside, and they are the pollutants that must be cleaned up first.
Any city that like Hong Kong relies heavily on coal-generated electricity is simply trading more toxic coal pollution for less toxic, vehicle-generated pollution when electric cars are used.
Apparently Beijing and other mainland cities are considering high use of electric vehicles also. This is a potential disaster given the high reliance on coal in most cities there.
Does Hong Kong have a policy in place for the safe and responsible disposal of old and damaged batteries from these vehicles? That would be a good idea.
In other words, far from being a positive contribution to our pollution problem, electric taxis are likely yet another poorly thought-out government initiative, possibly creating even more air pollution and a screen for the real problem - the absurd amount of time it is taking to remove old diesel trucks and buses from our roads.
Truck owners should have been depreciating their trucks over the last 20 years and saving for new vehicles. Instead they ask the rest of us for handouts when they cannot afford to replace them, and continue to poison us daily.
The bus companies seem to be using old buses as empty rolling billboards, again, at huge cost to our health, our roads and our economy, with damage and congestion also subsidised by the taxpayer.
Still, I would gladly see our huge surplus used to remove every old truck and bus from our roads tomorrow, rather than being used to build more roads for mollycoddled drivers and companies that don't pay for them.
As for electric taxis, they are likely not a solution in any way to the shambles that is Hong Kong's road transport policy.
Jeff Gagnon, Central
Trade pact will hurt Taiwan's small firms
I don't agree with those who argue that Taiwan can benefit from the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement at all.
Large firms from China will threaten small and medium-sized enterprises in Taiwan. Competition between those enterprises will become more intense.
These big mainland companies have the capital to lower prices, while SMEs don't have the resources to do this.
Many will go bankrupt and the large firms will end up dominating in Taiwan, just as they do in Hong Kong. They will be the sole beneficiaries of the pact.
The government in Taipei handled the whole affair badly in its effort to drive through the new pact. Initially it wanted it enacted without looking at individual clauses.
I do hope all the differences that have emerged in Taiwan over this pact can be resolved in the near future.
Kathy Au Yeung, Wong Tai Sin
HK$1,500 fine can help to improve safety
The government has proposed a HK$1,500 penalty for shop- keepers who block pavements with goods.
I agree with this proposal as the present system involving summonses and court hearings is time consuming and the fines imposed, usually less than HK$600, are too low to act as an effective deterrent.
Goods blocking roads and pavements cause inconve-nience, congestion and accidents. Boxes piled up on pavements hinder the flow of tourists and residents on already narrow, congested streets.
Pedestrians can trip over boxes or be hit by cars if they are forced to walk on the road.
The introduction of this fixed charge would improve safety for pedestrians and drivers and make Hong Kong a more appealing destination for tourists.
Nadia Lam, Tsim Sha Tsui
Small classes essential for learning
Under the large-class teaching system that prevails in Hong Kong, more than 30 students will have their lessons together.
Because there are so many of them, most will tend to sit silently and listen to their teachers.
They have few opportunities to interact and some who need help will be neglected by the teacher. Under these conditions, lessons become boring.
For these reasons, I think small-class teaching is essential in our schools. With fewer pupils, there will be a greater opportunity to interact.
They will be more likely to ask the teacher questions and the teachers will have the time to answer at length, if need be.
The students will concentrate more, there will be a greater motivation to learn and this could lead to better academic performances by many of them.
Teachers will also gain from smaller classes. Keeping order will be easier resulting in a better learning environment.
Also, teachers will have the chance to design lessons and tailor their teaching strategies to suit the needs of every student.
They can divide classes to enable group discussions. This offers variety to the learning experience.
I think if you look at all the advantages to teachers and students, small-class teaching is the way forward. It should be adopted in all primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong.
Cherrie Wan, Kowloon Tong
No need for costly new vet school
Earlier this year, the bid by City University to establish Hong Kong's first veterinarian school failed to get funding from the University Grants Committee.
However, the university says it will start the first postgraduate programme in September that does not require government funding. And it will bid again for the school at a later date.
Setting up such a school would be very costly. A great deal of equipment would have to be purchased. Qualified academics from overseas would have to be offered contracts that were good enough to tempt them to come here.
During the debate on the merits of setting up this course, critics pointed out that some graduates might struggle to get work in Hong Kong and it would be expensive for them to set up their own practices. Also, established practices might prefer to hire experienced vets from overseas.
I think it may not be appropriate to set up such a school at this point.
Joey Li, Tseung Kwan O
Keep civil service retirement age
The government has started a public consultation to look into the possibility of extending the retirement age in the civil service beyond 60.
While I can see that allowing people to work longer could help fill vacancies in the workforce, I think there are disadvantages. The unemployment rate among some undergraduates is high and such a policy could further reduce their job opportunities.
I do not think there is any need to extend the retirement age in the civil service. When they retire at 60 they are all guaranteed a stable pension that ensures they will not have to work after they have retired.
This is not the case for elderly people who have spent their working lives on low incomes and may not have sufficient savings to enjoy a comfortable old age.
The government should encourage employers to offer them work. There is a restaurant in Prince Edward that hires staff over the age of 65. This benefits the business and the staff. The restaurant has a good reputation because of its hiring policy and therefore attracts a lot of customers. Also, these elderly people can raise their living standards.
Ella Choi, Kowloon Tong
Public needs incinerator cost update
In a letter to these columns in April 2012, Elvis W. K. Au, assistant director of environmental protection, said the cost of building the planned giant incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau would be HK$2.4 billion more than building the same plant at the Tsang Tsui Ash Lagoons.
Given the revised cost estimate of the Siu Ho Wan organic waste treatment facility (from HK$500 million to HK$1.5 billion), could Mr Au provide us with an up-to-date comparison of costs for Shek Kwu Chau versus Tsang Tsui Ash Lagoons?
His department has revised the cost of reclamation and building at Shek Kwu Chau to HK$18.2 billion, so what is the equivalent cost for building at Tsang Tsui?
As a point of reference, the recently completed hospital in Tung Chung cost HK$2.5 billion to construct. So for the sake of what looks like a vanity project, the Environmental Protection Department proposes to overspend taxpayers' money equivalent to building at least one new hospital - based on its unadjusted cost estimates.
I hope the public works subcommittee and finance committee reject the department's proposals when it asks for approval and for the money to be committed.
It will be a great shame for Hong Kong if the department is allowed to push ahead with this flawed plan without giving full consideration to the alternatives.
Michael Pratt, Living Islands Movement