Where’s the will to tackle illegal parking?
Vested interests have already forced the government to back down from proposed 50 per cent increase in penalties, at a time when the problem is getting worse
Combating illegal parking is not rocket science. All it takes is to hand out tickets and make sure the penalty is paid. And if the amount is too low, raise it to a level that deters offenders. But what should be a straightforward affair has proved too difficult for the Hong Kong government. Strong vested business interests and a lack of political will mean our officials are still tiptoeing around the problem.
That the government has bowed to opposition and scaled back the proposed 50 per cent increase in some penalties to 25 per cent is to be regretted. Officials said a smaller increase would be more acceptable to the public, but maintained that it would review the next stage of adjustment at the appropriate time.
If getting the Legislative Council to endorse the first revision since 1994 is already hard enough, the prospect of a second-phase adjustment can only be more difficult. The original increases were just to make up for inflation over the past two decades. Now that the penalties are to rise from HK$320 and HK$450 to only HK$400 and HK$560, deterrence will be greatly reduced. The government has missed the best opportunity to raise the penalties to the right level.
Indeed, it remains unclear whether the revised proposal will be passed as scheduled this month and take effect from June 1 next year. Some lawmakers have vowed to oppose the proposed new penalties, saying insufficient parking space is the root of the problem. Be that as it may, it cannot become a legitimate reason to reject heavier penalties. Otherwise, it might well be argued that the penalties should be scrapped altogether, until there is sufficient parking space in Central and other black spots.
Compared with the HK$1,500 fine for littering and HK$2,000 penalty for jaywalking, the watered down proposal looks even weaker. With 1.6 million tickets for illegal parking issued last year – almost double the 820,000 in 2011 – the situation is too serious to be ignored. The transport industry has instead called for tougher enforcement actions, such as impounding illegally parked vehicles. The government should heed the call and consider tougher measures to tackle the problem.