Letters to the Editor, June 30, 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 June, 2016, 4:06pm

Singapore’s provident fund streets ahead

I refer to Thomas Cheong’s dismissal of Jake van der Kamp’s misleading commentary on Singapore’s Central Provident Fund (CPF) system (“Incentives can increase Mandatory Provident Fund contribution rates”, June 24; “Singapore’s pension fund is not a model for Hong Kong to follow”, June 15).

If van der Kamp had bothered to check the CPF website, he would have learnt that eligible account holders with ample savings are also allowed to invest in a wide variety of approved assets other than real estate, including equities and bonds. They do so without the Boss telling them how to roll their money.

Any cash that they choose to leave idle in their accounts will still yield an annualised return of between 2.5 per cent to 6 per cent, not too bad from a Boss with a woeful investment record, according to van der Kamp.

That all Singaporean workers contribute 37 per cent of their total monthly salary to the CPF is also a misunderstanding that needs clarification. Currently, only employees below the age of 55 contribute “up to” 20 per cent of their monthly salary to the scheme, with “up to” another 17 per cent topped up by their employers. I stress “up to” because these contributions are now capped at an income of S$6,000 (HK$35,000). No contribution is necessary for any earnings above the ceiling.

Most Singaporean homeowners – comprising 90 per cent of households – tap these “forced” savings to pay off their housing loans without dipping into their disposable income, compared to almost half of Hong Kong families who use up to 70 per cent of their “free” monthly wage to pay off their rentals.

Many Singaporeans live in government-subsidised apartments that have yielded capital gains of up to S$600,000, depending on location and other factors, once they are eligible for sale after the stipulated minimum occupation of five years.

In plain economic terms, these real estate assets act as a “savings-investments” hedge against inflation, while renting a home is best described as outright consumption. Seen in this light, should van der Kamp be surprised that personal consumption per capita is far higher in Hong Kong? As of 2015, median wage stands at HK$22,000 in the Lion City compared to HK$14,000 on the Lion Rock.

Entrepreneurial activity has taken off over the last decade. More and more young Singaporeans want to be their own boss.

I fail to understand how a so-called “boss culture” has left Singaporeans poorer off than Hongkongers based on the aforementioned facts.

To be sure, life in the Lion City is not all rosy. Perhaps van der Kamp can share his wisdom on the many foolish things that Singapore has committed over the years for him to repeatedly taint its achievements with abandon.

John Chan, Singapore

Brexit proves not all votes are equal

So the UK has decided to leave the European Union. I believe this is a wrong decision as it has thrown the whole world into disarray: it affects the UK itself, Europe and the rest of the world. Certainly, members of the global village can feel the impact of the “divorce”.

Down the road, Scotland may seek another referendum on independence. This may lead to the disintegration of the UK. Members of the EU may also follow suit and, ultimately, this may lead to the disintegration of the EU. So, why would Britain do something that hurts everyone?

We have to look into the reason the Leave campaign got an upper hand. Shall we look into the quality of each vote more carefully? For example, the difference between a vote cast by Stephen Hawking and one by an ordinary voter.

Basically, each vote carries the same weight. But can we see the difference in the quality of their votes? An ordinary voter just looks after his own interest when he makes a decision; at the same time, he might have been affected by scaremongering politicians preying on ignorant voters. Meanwhile, when Mr Hawking casts his vote, he certainly would not have been easily affected by politicians. He casts his vote according to his personal interest, the national interest, the international interest and maybe even the interest of the cosmos!

You can see the beauty of democracy but at the same time you can see the flaws of it. The victory of the Leave campaign is a victory of scaremongering: votes of high quality are defeated by votes cast by “frogs in the well”. Don’t forget there is only one Stephen Hawking but millions of “frogs in the well” everywhere.

Lo Wai Kong, Yau Ma Tei

More special bins would help recycling

With reference to the article “Super profits: Hong Kong bottled water producers accused of reaping big money while adding heavily to plastic bottle waste” (May 29), the statistic of Hong Kong’s (under)achievement of a recycling rate of 14 per cent, versus the international average of 37 per cent, is shocking, sad but not surprising.

Concern for the environment has to come from within – it cannot be mandated.

Recycling starts with segregation. And if you walk around the city, the segregated boxes are not as frequent as the general ones, which are at every corner. The first thing the government should do is to have more segregated boxes everywhere.

Our private sector also needs to step up. Most offices I visit also don’t have separate bins. Even if the government doesn’t make this mandatory, corporates and building management companies should adopt this and employees in these firms should insist on the same.

Let’s learn from our neighbour Japan. It doesn’t take too much to notice how far the Japanese have come in terms of recycling. In various offices in Tokyo, I have even seen separate bins for plastic bottles and for the bottle caps!

Finally, on the need for fancy water at restaurants, we can all make a difference by asking for regular or tap water. And if an odd fancy restaurant says it does not provide it (I can name and shame a few), stop going there!

We all work hard to provide a good education for our children. What we are not doing enough of is to ensure that we leave our Mother Earth in better shape than she is in now.

Rahil Ahuja, Repulse Bay

E-waste a grim reminder of Hong Kong apathy

I refer to the article “Hong Kong becomes a dumping ground for US e-waste, research finds”, (June 19). Shame on Hong Kong for allowing this city to be used as a toxic waste dump.

Attempts by government “bureau-rats” to lie their way out of this one will surely be followed by their all-so-common (and nauseating) apology and promise to enforce existing rules – that is, to do their jobs. No one will be held accountable and it will be business as usual.

This is the Hong Kong fault line – crony capitalism, bureaucratic malfeasance and a general attitude by the rich and powerful that it really doesn’t matter as long as you make your money and get out.

Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung

Parents have duty to rein in their children

Recently, a CCTV clip that went viral showed two children vandalising a piece of artwork in a Shanghai museum while two women looked on (“China’s ‘little emperors’ vandalise art in Shanghai museum as their mothers film the act”, May 26).

This was not the first time Chinese children have been caught vandalising art or historic sites. In 2013, a 15-year-old boy wrote his name on the 3,000-year-old clay wall of an ancient Egyptian temple. The boy was roundly criticised for destroying an artefact.

But these children who caused trouble and inconvenience to others are not the only ones to blame. The parents who allowed such misbehaviour to happen must bear responsibility too. Because of the long-standing one-child policy, Chinese parents are known for spoiling their children. So children are the not the only ones who need to be educated; the parents too must learn better parenting skills.

Chloe Ng Sin-yee, Tseung Kwan O