Letters to the Editor, September 21, 2016
Top tiers of civil service perform badly
The Lands Department has come under fire again for its lax enforcement against illegal occupation of government land.
The Ombudsman has harshly criticised the practice of allowing illegal land occupiers to continue their operations on short-term tenancies as it sent a wrong message to the public that the government connived at the malpractice.
In 2012, the Audit Commission had already targeted the Lands Department for its ineffectiveness in combating unlawful occupation of government land. Clearly, in the past four years nothing has changed in the department.
What has happened with the department illustrates how difficult it is to improve a system with so much bureaucracy. There is a deep-rooted culture of “the lower the output, the lower the likelihood of committing a mistake”, which is demoralising for civil servants.
In the civil service promotion board, seniority and personal relationships outweigh capability, output and academic achievements. There is no punishment for those who have under-performed; it is ironic that they are sometimes rewarded for their inaction. This is discouraging for those people in government who want to serve the public.
The failure of management in government departments leads to public mistrust of the administration and undermines policy effectiveness.
The chief executive should commission the Civil Service Bureau to review the appraisal system of civil servants and make it more objective.
Goldman Chan, Sham Shui Po
Hold probe into chosen site for incinerator
In the midst the current allegations of collusion between the government and rural interests, we should focus on one of the apparently most egregious cases, namely the proposed incinerator. Even the government’s own studies made clear that the obvious place to build it was Tsang Tsui near Tuen Mun.
However, the administration opted instead for a remote island site at Shek Kwu Chau, involving the taxpayer in 30 per cent higher capital costs, massive extra running costs to ship the waste there and ship the ash back, and taking two years longer to build.
It has been widely suggested that this was to appease local rural interests, which feared erosion of the value of their Tuen Mun property portfolios. If this is correct, then the government has stuck the taxpayer with billions of dollars of extra costs just to support the property values of certain individuals.
Surely this is worth some sort of public inquiry?
R. E. J. Bunker, Lantau
Provide more shelters for street sleepers
Hong Kong is a prosperous city, but behind the images of prosperity lies the reality of homelessness and the fact that the city has a lot of street sleepers.
The government is always announcing bold plans for new and impressive urban designs, but often when a new project is launched, homeless people are evicted from an area where they based themselves. Where are they supposed to go? They have no warm, comfortable flat waiting for them.
They will have to find a park bench or some other uncomfortable, unhygienic location.
The government must commit to building more affordable housing and it has to immediately address the problem of street sleepers.
It has to build enough shelters for them where they can stay.
A failure to deal with the problem of homelessness could damage the reputation of the city.
Tweety Sung, Tseung Kwan O
Subdivided flats may offer a real solution
I am strongly opposed to any official crackdown on subdivided flats in industrial buildings (“Homeless warning on threatened evictions”, September 19).
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po has promised tougher penalties for landlords who do not comply with government orders to terminate leases for these units.
However, if these subdivided flats are emptied and dismantled, this could lead to many citizens from the grass roots, including the elderly, having nowhere to live.
I understand the safety issue with people living in industrial buildings, but if laws are applied stringently, what are people in these apartments supposed to do if they are evicted?
They cannot afford to pay a higher rent and the waiting lists for a flat in a public housing estate are long.
I do not think that fining landlords or terminating their leases will help. The evicted grass-roots residents will just have to look for another building where there are illegal flats that have not yet been targeted by the government.
The administration should be trying to find a short-term solution. It could encourage landlords of legal private apartments in residential areas to split them up into subdivided units that comply with all the relevant safety regulations. Grants could be offered to the landlords to help with the conversion work.
With more of these flats available, people would not have to opt for unsuitable industrial areas.
Giving funds to landlords of private units would actually help poorer citizens to cut back on the rent they have to pay, and this might correct the misuse of the industrial areas.
The fact that so many people are forced to rent units in these industrial areas shows that it is necessary for the government to have a rethink about its current housing policy.
Increasing the supply of public housing is not the only way to ease shortages.
Encouraging more subdivided units which are hygienic and legal, can meet an urgent need in the city.
Linda Ng Lai-yin, Kwai Fong
Workers more productive with time off
I agree with the letter by Lum Chi-lok (“Essential to get right work-life balance”, September 19).
It does not matter whether you are an office worker or a student, it is important to have enough time to rest. Of course, it is good to have job satisfaction, but that is of no use if you spend so many hours in the workplace with little time left to relax.
People who get enough rest will find that their minds are clearer and they can therefore be more efficient during the working day.
Also, people should not take their work home with them. Your free time should be just that. Working from home in the evening undermines efforts to find the right work-life balance.
Nicole Cheung Wing-sze, Kwai Chung
Science/tech start-ups need financial aid
While Hong Kong is a prosperous city, the science and technology sector is still underdeveloped, with limited opportunities for fresh graduates with related degrees.
Young graduates still tend to focus on the city’s pillar industries when considering careers – finance, services, property and tourism – because they know they will earn higher salaries.
If they want to launch a business in the science and technology sector they face considerable risks.
The government needs to do more to encourage young adults to consider science and technology start-ups. The best way to achieve this is to offer more generous subsidies.
With enough help and the right kind of financial assistance, hopefully we will see more young entrepreneurs having a go in Hong Kong.
Ruby Chim, Sheung Shui