Letters to the editor, January 1, 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 December, 2015, 4:10pm

Goodbye cheap money, hello frugality

The US Federal Reserve chief has announced an interest rate hike of 25 basis points. For the longest time, the market had speculated on when this would take place. In fact, the speculation had taken a life of its own and we retail investors had no inkling who to believe any more.

As expected, the market will always have something to say. Was the hike too little, too late? Too much, too soon? Was it sound against a still-wobbly economy? Looking into the future, how gradually will this increase take place?

Meanwhile, the markets’ response seems relatively muted. If the long-drawn-out process had served any purpose, it would have been in the stability it brought to prices. Long before Janet Yellen announced the rate increase, the markets had already priced it in.

So, what’s next? Against weak oil prices and a commodities overhang, there is not an engine that will pull the world economy out of the doldrums. China is limping along with growth below 7 per cent. Europe is coming back but not fast enough. Japan is technically in a recession. The United States looks promising for now, but with a presidential election looming in 2016, anything can happen.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is launching an economic community just as 2015 ends, looks promising. With a combined market of 600 million people and an eagerness to develop economically, the region is positioned to take off in a big way. Of course, integration will take time but, with a shared resolve, it offers the best chance yet in matching the European Union as a bastion of a regional bloc.

The only blot is regional geopolitical concerns. Against an uncertain global economic climate, this new economic community is synonymous with self-help to get us all out of the rut.

One thing is for sure. The era of cheap and plentiful money is passé. Frugality for nations, corporations and individuals alike should be the rule of the day.

Lee Teck Chuan, Singapore

Toilets don’t top priority list for women

No doubt discrimination against women has eased a lot over the years. The Hong Kong government is now planning to amend legislation that would ensure there are more toilets for women in public buildings in the city (“Toilet relief on the way for women”, December 7). Its intention is commendable, but there are many other things it could do first.

The government could do more to support mothers who want to breastfeed, for example. Many conservative Hongkongers regard breastfeeding in public as improper behaviour. And how about increasing the number of nurseries in our shopping malls? It has often been suggested that the government should do more to help our mothers and mothers-to-be.

Many women continue to suffer domestic violence. They need our attention, too.

Given these and other issues, building more toilets for women is not the best way to protect their interests.

Zoe Chung Ka Man, Tseung Kwan O

Drive brings home anti-litter message

The annual Hong Kong Cleanup campaign, which ran from September 1 to December 1 this year, aims to raise public awareness of the city’s waste problem. According to the organisers, more than 75,000 people took part in the challenge over the three months, cleaning up more than 5.6 million pieces of trash that weighed over 4,600 tonnes – a record amount.

Participants experienced for themselves the harm that comes from thoughtless behaviour. Many people think littering affects only wildlife but not us directly. It’s not true – litter attracts rats and other vermin, which spread diseases.

After the campaign, many people will still need reminders that we should keep rubbish off our streets, coastlines and seas. It is vital the government has a long-term plan to educate people about the importance of cleanliness.

Before you litter, please think about whether you would be willing to clean up after someone else. If you are not, please stop littering. We all want a clean and healthy city.

Eleanor Lui Lok Ching, Kowloon Tong

Wonder keeps the New Year blues away

Christmas followed by the cheerful prospects of the new year brought forth “Joy to the World”.

In Australia, objections to the commercialisation of the highlight of the Christian calendar were drowned out by the vast majority of Australians who indulged in retail therapy in air-conditioned shopping centres, sunned themselves in droves on beaches, feasted on roasts and fresh prawns and downed merry drinks during the festive season.

I agree heartily that we have earned rest and recreation before the next year of effort and toil is foisted onto our lives, even though the mass unshackling of employed adults from their workplaces to their home and leisure pursuits translated into congested cafes, restaurants, shops, beaches and airports.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Hell is other people” announces itself boldly when one is physically trapped in the midst of hundreds of thousands of loud boozy revellers at the New Year’s Eve fireworks. But annoyance is usually far outweighed by the magic of the light show inscribing itself across the night sky.

If only the communal spirit engendered by convivial family gatherings and holidays by the sea could be bottled for use through the rest of the next year. Every year, the spirit of fraternity abruptly ends after the last notes of Auld Lang Syne are rendered by the slurred dystonic voices of one’s happenstance companions.

A Godsend at last: a toddler grabbed my legs from behind and yelped a “Happy New Year” with the mirth and garrulity that only a child can yield. My faith in the human condition is far from restored, but if only we could look at the world with a child’s wonder forever, there wouldn’t be a need to be rueful and disappointed with the year just past.

Joseph Ting, Carina, Queensland, Australia

Celebrate, with a care for the environment

Whenever it is Christmas or Lunar New Year, citizens are willing to spend money to dine out or shop. However, here comes the problem. Food that cannot be finished is thrown away, and decorations that were bought for the festive season are used for a while then disposed of.

We surely can think of ways to reuse them. I recently joined an activity which used drink cans to make a Christmas tree, and the “tree” was displayed in Tsim Sha Tsui. It was a meaningful and unforgettable experience. If we are creative enough, everything will be possible, not only making a Christmas tree!

Amid the festivities, citizens can think of ways to protect the environment and celebrate at the same time. To begin with, we should pack what is not eaten at restaurants and take it home. We don’t need to be embarrassed to do so.

We can also reuse decorations for the next year. If we really do not want them, we can still give them to organisations like the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups for recycling.

Last but not least, citizens can think of creative ideas to make unwanted things into interesting things, such as accessories.

Festivals make us happy. But while we enjoy ourselves, we also have to consider how we can help the environment.

Mary Ko, Tseung Kwan O

No downside to standard working hours

Hong Kong has been arguing for several years now over whether or not we should set rules to protect employees from excessively long working hours. There is no doubt that we need standard working hours.

There are already many scientific studies saying that forcing people to work for a long time without rest reduces their productivity and the quality of their work. There are many drawbacks to our mental and physical health. For instance, people get stressed easily, and suffer from lack of sleep and sickness. These negative effects will eventually affect their work.

A law on standard working hours can ensure employees have a better work-life balance. By raising their productivity, this law will benefit employers too.

The law will also be good for the government. If workers are more rested and protected, they will fall sick less easily, and this reduces the government’s spending on public health care.

Therefore, the government should listen to the voices of the people and enact legislation for standard working hours. It will not only benefit the workers, but also the companies and the government.

For the sake of Hong Kong’s business development, standard working hours are a must.

Gigi Yang Cheuk Chi, Ma On Shan