Letters to the Editor, September 27, 2016

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 4:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 September, 2016, 4:28pm

Sugar tax will be good public health measure

I refer to the report, “Tax all ­sugary drinks, WHO tells Hong Kong” (September 24).

The World Health Organisation has made this call as a way to tackle the global obesity ­problem. I think such a tax could be effective as people do look at rising prices when they are shopping.

If the cost of sugar-sweetened soft drinks goes up, I ­believe many people will cut back their spending on these drinks and therefore their consumption. Then they will hopefully choose healthier alternatives and we will see a ­reduction in the high obesity levels.

Another reason so many people are overweight in Hong Kong and in other parts of the world is that they lead inactive lifestyles. Teens and adults often spend a lot of time sitting in front of their televisions and computers during leisure ­periods.

They have dinner then sit down on the couch and play with their smartphones, so it is hardly surprising that they put on weight, because the calories from the food and drink they consume are stored in their ­bodies rather than being burned off.

The government should be introducing measures to try and ensure that citizens have a ­balanced diet and get regular exercise. This sugar tax should be one of its public health ­measures.

Cathy Yuen Tsz-Wai, Tseung Kwan O

Education is preferable to any new levy

Retailers have expressed ­concern over the cost implications of a tax on sugary drinks in Hong Kong and the government has declined to say if such a ­policy is in the pipeline.

I would not support this levy, because I do not think consumption of these soft drinks is the main reason people become obese.

Many Hongkongers are under a great deal of pressure in their daily lives. They often work long hours, arriving in the office early in the morning and not ­getting home until late in the evening.

There is little time to relax or to exercise. It is the same with students who have to do homework in the evening after a busy day at school. This sedentary lifestyle contributes to people becoming overweight.

Many children and adults ­often spend a lot of time in front of their TV sets and may stay up late, so they do not get enough sleep.

Even when they have spare time, many students would rather play computer games than get involved in sports. And the attitude of some parents does not help. They often want their children to keep studying rather than get involved in outdoor activities.

Some experts say people in office jobs should try to get an hour’s exercise every day.

As Anthony Lock Kwok-on, of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, pointed out, a sugar tax could affect people’s livelihoods as they would have to pay more for sugar-sweetened products. Manufacturers would pass on increased costs to the consumer.

Hong Kong is famed for its low-tax culture and this is attractive to investors. We do not want to put them off investing here and making the city less competitive.

Education is ­important and the government should emphasise the importance of having a balanced diet in order to stay healthy. It should also encourage tuck shops in schools not to sell sugary drinks and food high in calories.

If young people can learn the importance of regular exercise and balanced diets then hopefully they will start to cut back on their consumption of sugary drinks and recognise the kind of food that is not good for them.

Tony Tsang, Ma On Shan

Pension must ensure better quality of life

The government undertook a public consultation on a ­proposed universal retirement protection scheme.

The two main proposals are for a pension regardless of ­people being rich or poor and a means-tested one where people with financial needs are eligible.

A proposed monthly ­pension of HK$3,230 a month would not be available to those citizens who are better off if means testing was implemented. I would support the “those in financial need” pension scheme.

There has been a heated ­debate about the kind of ­pension that should be available and I can see strong arguments for both proposed schemes.

However, if the means-tested system was implemented, I do not think the proposal to ­exclude single elderly people with assets of HK$80,000 and couples with HK$125,000 could be justified. This would be a harsh ­limit to impose.

Many elderly people who will have worked hard for years will have saved a lot more than these sums, but still require a pension. People with assets on these levels ­cannot possibly be described as being rich.

Inflation and rapid ­increases in costs of necessities place a great deal of stress on the elderly poor. When it drafts its future retirement policies, the government must ensure a ­better quality of life for those people who have contributed so much to Hong Kong during their working lives.

Therefore the ­assets limit for single people and couples would have to be raised.

I realise the difficulty the government faces trying to find a consensus on this controversial issue and whatever it decides it will not please all stakeholders.

However, it has a unique opportunity to deal successfully with this complex issue and come up with concrete policies that help elderly citizens.

Kathleen Kong Hoi-hung, Hang Hau

Pupils really benefited from reading grants

A lot of school principals have criticised the decision by the Education Bureau to scrap the reading grants scheme for ­primary and secondary schools.

I agree with them that these grants should not have been cut.

The bureau should be doing all it can to help with the intellectual development of young ­people.

It is extremely important for young people to read and to be able to improve their reading skills. Reading a lot broadens your horizons and children should be helped to get into the reading habit from an early age.

Primary-age children can memorise so much and so they need to given every possible opportunity to read. It is harder for older people to read regularly if they did not do so at school.

There was no good reason to cut the grants. If it wanted to save money, the government should have focused instead on white elephant projects that consume so much money, like the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, or the development of the Northeast New Territories.

Cheung Tsz-kin, Sheung Shui

Hawkers an important part of city’s culture

I refer to the letter by Trisha ­Tobar (“Designated area can work for hawkers”, September 26).

I believe that granting ­licences to hawkers in designated areas would be a good idea. I also support the decision to introduce food trucks in the city. However, not everyone can afford to launch a food truck business as I reckon it would cost around HK$500,000 to successfully run these trucks.

Granting hawker licences in designated areas would allow ­vendors who could not afford these trucks to still operate a successful business from an ­outdoor stall, selling food or clothes.

The relevant government department could have regular checks to ensure ­hygiene is good in these areas.

Hawkers are an important tradition in Hong Kong.

Tsang Kai-yuet, Tseung Kwan O