Tighter control of real estate sector crucial
Hong Kong is a renowned international financial centre. Our financial industry, with its sophisticated regulatory framework, is one of our economic pillars.
That framework is based on previous experience and mistakes. The Securities and Futures Commission was set up in 1989 in response to the stock market crash of October 1987. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority was set up in 1993 in part because the Office of the Commissioner of Banking and the Office of the Exchange Fund could not evolve at the same pace with our financial market.
However, the development of the real estate industry's regulatory regime has fallen short of expectations. We rely on government policy bureaus and statutory agents like the Estate Agents Authority to regulate property development and sales. They have been ineffective in tackling improper sales practices and combating unlawful alteration of property usage.
Government revenue depends largely on property-related income like stamp duty, property tax and land premium paid by developers. To avoid the chaos that would be caused by a property market collapse, market participants should be under greater scrutiny.
The government should set up an HKMA-type integrated regulatory authority and engage the expertise of professionals like lawyers, accountants and surveyors as well as veteran ordinance enforcers from relevant government departments like the Lands and Buildings departments. It is time for us to overhaul the existing regulatory framework before a real crisis hits.
Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O
No need for stores or cafes to waste food
Joseph Lee is so right when he writes about leftover food from supermarkets being thrown out ("Wasted beef could feed poor people", November 6). When I lived in California some years ago, supermarkets would mark down their meat a few hours before closing time so customers could buy them at lower prices.
This is true throughout the rest of the US.
Not just supermarkets here but coffee shops also get rid of leftover sandwiches and pastries when they could give them to poor people. I've spoken to some of the staff of these outlets and asked if they can take home stuff that isn't sold (since they're so overworked and underpaid). I learned they weren't allowed to, that orders were to discard everything.
Why can't companies be sensible and kind towards the working class? Obviously those words are alien to the Hong Kong ethos.
Renata Lopez, Wan Chai
Eco-vandals destroying Lung Mei
Creating an artificial beach at Lung Mei where the water is just above waist high at best and possibly only ankle deep during the hottest season of the year is ludicrous.
Add to that the water being polluted by heavy metals, and the whole project starts to look decidedly shaky.
The fact that 200 species of marine life, some of which are endangered, are to be wiped out in order to create pleasure facilities for the public makes the whole concept sickeningly selfish.
The label "endangered" is not to be taken lightly. Therefore, deliberately destroying the habitat of Lung Mei's seahorses in the name of development cannot be regarded as a balanced decision.
That the relocation plan may or may not work is unacceptable. This is no win-win solution for the sea creatures to be affected by this beach plan; it's a game of Russian roulette - they either live or they die.
The only members of the public to really benefit from this project will be those who are about to make a nice profit out of it.
Green groups are to be commended for taking a stand against this bad decision and they deserve our full support because they care about protecting our environment instead of trashing it.
They are beseeching the government not to go ahead with it. If the decision is reversed, there will be no loss of face; it will be the brave and environmentally decent thing to do. Sadly, their efforts are at risk of being defeated by the actions of eco-vandals being bussed in at weekends by unethical tour companies just out to make a quick buck.
Instead of creating an artificial beach, the government needs to take immediate steps to protect the area from these weekend scavengers, who take depraved pleasure in mutilating and destroying any sea life they can lay their hands on and leave behind their litter for government workers to clean up.
If the despicable behaviour of some visitors is allowed to continue, there is going to be nothing left to protect.
Joan Miyaoka, Sha Tin
LGBT citizens deserve equal rights in city
November 7 was a dark day for justice and equality in Hong Kong, as legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan's modest motion on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) equal rights didn't pass the Legislative Council ("Call for public debate on gay-bias law rejected", November 8).
Once again, the current vote-counting method in Legco highlights the absurdity of the situation.
Were the votes tallied according to the simple majority rule (instead of requiring a majority in the functional and geographical constituencies), the motion would have been passed. A recent University of Hong Kong survey indicated that almost 64 per cent of respondents agreed that sexuality-based discrimination should be outlawed.
This is persuasive evidence that legislation to protect gays from discrimination would enjoy majority support. Yet, the government failed to show any leadership in the matter. Not only does it ignore the latest public opinion, it continues to hide its head in the sand, hoping the issue will fade away.
While the government is a disgrace to Hongkongers, the naysayers in the legislature have sunk to a new political low with misinformation and the use of scare tactics to justify their opposition. When has it become acceptable in a civil society that the human dignity of sexual minorities be trampled on by the majority?
Hong Kong is a secular and diverse society, and its LGBT citizens deserve equal protection and equal rights. If the Leung Chun-ying government is serious about leadership, it should act now and start the consultation and legislative process without further delays.
LGBT citizens in this great city have already endured enough. They shouldn't have to continue to live with fear and indignity.
Jerome Yau, Happy Valley
Drugs cost more, thanks to high rents
Joop Litmaath complains about Hong Kong's "outrageous" pharmacy charges ("High price of pills demands explanation", November 3), which he discovered were 10 times higher than those for the identical product in Spain.
One key explanation is a simple word, "rent".
Here in Hong Kong, consumers do not pay sales or value-added taxes. Instead, the system ensures that they pay significantly more via the rents retailers pay to commercial property owners.
It could be argued that Hong Kong's fiscal reserves might be even bigger, and better able to provide more generous social benefits, if rents were reduced and sales taxes introduced.
Barry Girling, Tung Chung
Anyone with Alzheimer's deserves help
The government should do more to assist the underprivileged who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
Hong Kong faces the problem of having an ageing population and there is likely to be a rise in the number of Alzheimer's patients.
The administration must ensure that it is not only well-off families which have access to day-care services for the elderly and Alzheimer's medicine.
It is the government's duty to balance the interests of all Hong Kong citizens and, where necessary, such medical services should be subsidised for the poorer sections of society.
This is feasible given the fact that the treasury has a huge budget. If day-care services were expanded to cater for the needs of all citizens, this would create more job opportunities, with some openings for lower-skilled workers.
Many people who suffer from Alzheimer's become marginalised and so the support network must be expanded.
Leung Ka-yan, Sha Tin
Increased allowance justifiable
We should all be concerned about those elderly citizens who are living in poverty.
I think the government should raise the amount of the old-age allowance.
Most of these people are now too old to work and earn a salary, and yet they must pay for daily necessities in the face of inflation.
It is cruel that some of them are forced to do menial jobs just to make a pittance. So, obviously, they should be given a higher allowance.
Also, I think children of old folk should recognise they have a responsibility to help their aged parents.
Yuffy Wong, Aberdeen