Letters to the Editor, January 14, 2017

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 January, 2017, 12:17am

Rent controls may spark adverse effects

Tenants of subdivided flats have been the worst hit by the current wave of property rent hikes, with their rental expenses increasing at ­almost double the rate at that of other private sector homes.

The government has been urged to help relieve the burden of tenants by imposing rent ­controls. Certainly, it needs to do something. But, past experience tells us that rent control is not an appropriate option.

Not only is it against the free market economic principle ­upheld by the government, ­deciding on a benchmark rent level and allowable percentage of increase is itself a thorny task. Since every property unit is unique and the market situation ever-changing, it is not realistic to expect the administration to closely follow every change in valuation.

Secondly, if the government wants to implement the initiative on or after a specific effective date, it will have to make a prior public announcement. Owners may raise the rent drastically ­before the effective date, and that will not be good for tenants.

Moreover, owners may even become more selective and harsh in choosing tenants. Vulnerable groups such ethnic minorities may encounter more difficulties in finding accommodation. This may also give rise to more shady dealings not reflected in tenancy agreements.

Finally, imposing rent control still has an indirect implication – deterioration of building condition. As owners cannot hike rents easily, they will be discouraged from carrying out maintenance or improvement works, leaving tenants to endure a declining living environment.

Goldman Chan, Sham Shui Po

Brace for great changes this new year

It seems businesses are not the only ones facing disruption and drastic changes – even world leaders are being disruptive.

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation in India, to politicians backing Brexit in the UK and US president-elect Donald Trump’s explosive tweets. The year 2017 will be one of significant change, and our very own Hong Kong is poised to welcome a new leader.

All I can say for 2017 is brace yourselves for a lot of changes. Market pundits may be absolutely wrong, astrologers may be wrong and so may be the media. The unpredictable leaders people have chosen around the world all claim they can make their respective countries great again. But at whose cost?

The answer is, all of you. We’re living in a globalised world that is not going to work with self-centred policies. One world, not one country, is the only way forward.

Rishi Teckchandani, Mid-Levels

Rainy day pool could offset MPF woes

The Mandatory Provident Fund offsetting mechanism has been called one of the three mountains the government must tackle to mitigate adverse public sentiment ­towards the ­administration.

Compared with the other two mountains, namely, the management of malls by Link Reit and the MTR fare adjustment mechanism, the MPF offsetting issue is probably the thorniest one, as it affects the ­interests of every employer.

The government recently suggested the introduction of a cut-off date for the existing mechanism, with subsidies to relieve the impact on employers. However, this “phase out” arrangement was not welcomed by business sector lawmakers.

Another suggestion is to ­replace severance payment with an unemployment fund or insurance. Labour sector lawmakers voiced reservations, as severance payment is a kind of compensation to staff for termination of employment, which is different from unemployment insurance. But I think that this option is worth considering.

Jobless workers need some financial assistance during the transition period. We could introduce a new layer of insurance on top of the MPF scheme, so that savings under the MPF can be preserved solely for retirement protection.

Anyone unemployed for a certain period of time can opt to receive a nominal subsidy from the insurance pool, while those who are sacked can get a higher amount, comparable to what they would be entitled to under the existing severance payment arrangement.

Regarding the source of financing, as the unemployment-related Comprehensive Social Security Assistance will become redundant under the proposed arrangement, this can be abolished and the resources reallocated to the new scheme.

Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O

Recyclables still dumped in rubbish bins

I have reservation on the views shared by Eunice Li Dan-yue (“Get Hong Kong students to embrace recycling culture from early age”, December 26).

Recycling has been taught and advocated in school and society for decades. But this has had little effect, as people keep dumping tonnes of ­recyclable domestic waste every day.

Though recycling bins are easily accessible across the city, people habitually place recyclable materials into rubbish bins.

The total number of bins is not the big question. The question is whether there is enough official incentive or inducement to inspire good practices on waste reduction. Japan and ­Taiwan are good examples.

Our government has suggested a holistic environmental protection policy, such as a solid waste charge based on the quantity of waste produced, or polluter pays.It also plans to charge manufacturers HK$1 for every one-litre glass bottle.

It is important to complement existing policies with education till the recycling concept is ingrained in citizens.

Gravis Cheng, Yuen Long

Want to cut waste? Bring your own box

A stainless steel lunchbox is the best way to be green, and won’t need recycling like the paper ones favoured by Jeremy Newton ­(“Recycled paper lunchboxes are the best option”, January 11).

I have been taking a screw-top container to takeaway shops for years to get wanton noodles, congee and dim sum for meals at home on Sunday. Not a drop of soup is spilled, and the box is virtually unbreakable.

Besides, washing with just tap water is enough, and the box can be reused millions of times.

I suggest that takeaway shops display stainless steel containers for sale – I feel many customers would like this idea.

Edmond Pang, Fanling

Rich but fragile biodiversity needs our help

I refer to your article on marine life (“Under the sea: species flourish in Hong Kong waters, study reveals”, December 30).

For such a concrete jungle, Hong Kong’s biodiversity is disproportionately rich. However, scientists warn that climate change, ocean acidification, and relentless urbanisation may threaten this biodiversity.

Most of the problems are caused by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, as this will emit acidic pollutants into the air and oceans. The solution is to use renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.

To protect our planet, we cannot just rely on the government for renewable energy such as wind and hydropower, and solar and geothermal energy. The resources on our planet are limited, we should always follow the 3Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Sara Wong Kit-yu,Tseung Kwan O