THE Government, in a desperate attempt to buy time for further ''meditation'' on selecting the best retirement scheme for Hong Kong, has raised a sensational moral appeal to all employees to join any registered retirement schemes. ''The sooner they start . . . the better will be their provision for a happy and secure old age,'' Secretary for Financial Services Michael Cartland urged. But given the existing indecision of the Government, employers naturally want to wait and see. For them, there is no harm in waiting for one or more years to see the Government's long-delayed decision. Nor is there any incentive to join existing registered schemes, as promoted by the Government. If there has not been such a scheme for an employer for the past several years, there seems little urgency to start one now. Why rush in the coming few months to opt for a scheme which may not eventually be in line with what the Government decides at the end of the day? Where will the pressure come from? It is naive to expect employees to organise themselves and press their employers to set up a scheme. Young employees often do not think that far down the road, and older employees are rarely outspoken enough to put pressure on their employers. As Mr Cartland poignantly states, only about 30 per cent of the work force is covered by any retirement scheme. And only about 10 per cent of smaller companies employing fewer than 50 people have established schemes so far. The figures themselves, coupled with the fact that the population is ageing, demonstrate the urgency of the issue. However, the Government does not seem to feel that urgency. While calling on people to start their own schemes as soon as possible, the Government is taking a relaxed view. Mr Cartland has warned against any optimism for a quick solution. ''Although he [Governor Chris Patten] intends to announce a proposal on the way forward before the end of the year, it is by no means certain that any more comprehensive arrangements will be introduced,'' he said. ''Even if they were, it would be some years after that before any such arrangements could be implemented and entitlements started to accrue.'' How much longer do we wait before all this talk turns into action and starts saving Hong Kong's elderly from destitution.