Letters to the Editor, July 27, 2014

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 4:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 4:01am

Insurance law would protect consumers

I refer to Enoch Yiu's column ("Insurers should always act in clients' best interest", July 8).

Yiu mentioned that insurance companies in Hong Kong are strongly opposed to a provision in a proposed new law requiring insurers and their agents to act in the best interest of policyholders.

Singapore has experienced challenges similar to those faced in Hong Kong.

I was the chief executive of a large insurance cooperative in Singapore for 30 years until 2007.

For the past two decades, insurers in Singapore have been required to give a benefit illustration, in a standard format, to the consumer for each life insurance policy that is being recommended.

The benefit illustration provides some important figures that show consumers if the proposed policy gives a fair return.

One such figure is the "effect of deduction", which shows the proportion of the accumulated premium that is taken away from the consumer based on two projected rates of return that are fairly realistic and agreed upon by the industry association.

Most of the traditional and investment-linked life insurance policies have an "effect of deduction" of more than 35 per cent for an investment period of 25 years or longer.

Some could be more than 50 per cent.

The life insurance policies now being sold in Hong Kong would probably have similar deductions.

These policies would clearly not pass the test of being "in the client's best interest" as the deductions are too high.

Unfortunately, many consumers do not know how to judge what constitutes a fair return and are not aware that a fair deduction should be less than 20 per cent.

I support the view that legislation in Hong Kong should require insurers and intermediaries to act in the client's best interest.

This should be supported by an additional requirement for insurers to provide a standard benefit illustration, similar to what has been practised in Singapore.

While the legislation can only set out the broad principle, the actual practice of what is or is not in the client's best interest can be determined by the regulator in consultation with practitioners and consumers or by the courts.

If this approach is too problematic, the legislators should consider taking the approach of the United Kingdom and Australia, which ban the payment of commission for life insurance policies that are taken primarily as an investment vehicle.

Tan Kin Lian, president, Financial Services Consumer Association, Singapore


MH17 tragedy shows need for security

I would like to offer condolences to relatives and friends of the deceased in the MH17 tragedy.

It was abhorrent to see a civilian aircraft shot down by a missile in Ukraine. The lives of the innocent people on board were taken mercilessly.

As the world is busy searching for the responsible party, it is of paramount importance to ensure heightened security for global travellers.

While the advancement of the aviation industry has reduced the distance between people from different corners of the world, the ideological gaps remain very wide.

There is still a long way to go in building a truly global village.

Priscilla Tang Pui-shan, Sha Tin


Modi must maintain momentum

Further to your balanced editorial ("India's sensible step to reform", July 21) India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, at a BRICS meeting in Brazil recently proved to the world that he is a seasoned and prudent leader.

However, the government now needs to encourage foreign investment, recover funds misappropriated through corruption, keep inflation in check, and invest in affordable education, housing, health care, clean water and maintaining an uninterrupted electricity supply.

While the early days of the new government have gone well, it must now ensure that officials do not engage in corruption if it wants to retain the respect and confidence of ordinary hard-working Indians, support economic growth and accelerate eradication of the wealth gap.

A compassionate and efficient police force is also vital to ensure that women in particular feel protected.

Ranjit Bhawnani, Tsim Sha Tsui


Not every HK citizen will love the party

Disappointingly, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's column ("Wrestling with restlessness", July 20) fails to analyse the whats and whys of worries about the words "love the motherland, love Hong Kong".

I'd suggest three reasons for the worries. First, love is too broad and emotionally washy a word for public discourse. Mrs Ip needs to clarify her definition of this political love.

Second, how best to discover and apply the meaning of this subjective expression? Why cannot the voters judge? Is there a hidden meaning deliberately left unclear concerning the objects of this love? She does not acknowledge this concern, still less assuage it.

Third, one hidden meaning may be that motherland means the Communist Party. The nominating committee will mix the two up. No one doubts that the chief executive must have a functional relationship with China, thus with the Chinese Communist Party.

But although the party has been successful economically recently, the record from 1949 to 1984 was very mixed, and June 4, 1989 was not encouraging. So not every Hong Kong citizen will necessarily love the party, even though they are Chinese, love China and acknowledge Hong Kong as an indivisible part of China.

Mrs Ip has not made clear her view on these questions: must a candidate for Hong Kong's chief executive love the Chinese Communist Party? Will it be sufficient proof of love to swear an oath of loyalty to the country, if elected?

In trying to find the vital middle ground, inadequately defined or decoded words like love actually sap confidence in public life.

I know many fear "the people", but they should remember Berthold Brecht's sarcastic observation that if the people have lost the government's confidence, the government could simply dissolve the people, an illusion that doesn't apply in Hong Kong. People's worries, even their suspicions, need to be persuasively answered, not simply gawped at helplessly.

Paul Serfaty, Mid-Levels


Summer jobs can enhance students' lives

There are several options open to students during the summer holiday rather than just hanging out with friends.

Part-time jobs offer students more than just a chance to earn money. They also provide an opportunity to acquire valuable work experience, helping students improve their social skills and teaching them how to interact with colleagues and clients.

Voluntary work can make the holiday more meaningful, allowing students to help those in need and serve society while at the same time enriching their résumés.

There are many more activities that could broaden students' horizons, from attending book fairs to joining study tours.

Students should take the time to enhance their studies this summer holiday.

Kathy Au Yeung, Wong Tai Sin