Letters to the Editor, April 20, 2015
MPF returns higher than inflation rate
I refer to the letter by Winky Chan ("MPF failing to offer security in old age", April 14).
The Mandatory Provident Fund is a long-term investment and members should not be overly concerned about its short-term performance. Overseas experience indicates that it takes 30 to 40 years for a retirement system to mature, so the MPF system, which has been operating for just over a decade, is still relatively young.
As at the end of February, the total amount of MPF assets had grown to close to HK$590 billion, and the system had generated an investment return of HK$150 billion. This translates into an annualised internal rate of return of 4.4 per cent, which is net of fees and charges, much higher than the 1.8 per cent yearly inflation rate over the same period.
System-wide performance is largely driven by the investment choices that members make. MPF funds generally achieve returns similar to the returns of the markets they invest into.
One should also note that the MPF is only one of the pillars for retirement protection. It was not designed to meet all retirement needs. It has to be supplemented by other retirement pillars, such as a publicly financed retirement system and personal savings.
To boost the returns of the MPF, the MPF Schemes Authority (MPFA) has been working hard to drive fund fees down. The average fund expense ratio of MPF funds has dropped more than 20 per cent since 2007 to the latest 1.62 per cent. This improvement flows directly into the return that members receive.
The government and the MPFA have recently proposed standardising the default arrangement of all MPF schemes.
The default investment strategy will be subject to a fee control and adopt an investment approach suitable for long-term investment savings. This proposal helps simplify choice, lower fees, yield more consistent performance and reduce risk.
Betty Chan, head (external affairs), Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority
Once-a-week visa ruling will ease tensions
I think the new policy of restricting permanent residents from Shenzhen to one trip a week to Hong Kong can help to curb the problem of parallel traders.
This will be welcomed by the grass roots from society who in parts of the New Territories have faced rising prices of some daily necessities because of the activities in these areas of the parallel traders buying up stocks in bulk.
Also, those areas filled with the traders will now be less crowded and this will be more comfortable for residents and visitors.
Those parts of the New Territories were becoming unpleasant to visit, with a long wait for public transport.
The new ruling can help to ease tensions between mainland and Hong Kong citizens and they can now enjoy a better relationship.
The Tourism Board must not lose sight of the need to ensure Hong Kong remains an enjoyable place to visit.
And we must come up with new attractions to tempt visitors.
Eleanor Lui Lok-ching, Yau Yat Chuen
Yet another dangerous distraction
The advance press on the highly anticipated Apple Watch has been positive, but I look at it from another perspective.
I worked as a pre-hospital trauma physician in England and treated seriously injured patients who had been distracted by mobile phone calls, text messaging and sound notifications of incoming social network updates on their smartphones.
I am wary that the Apple Watch poses another constantly buzzing attention-redirecting risk that will contribute to accidents among pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
With its turn and glance watch face planted on the wrist and light tactile notifications, wearers can turn their attention to the buzz with the seamless ease of telling the time on a traditional wristwatch.
There is now no need to take a smartphone out of the pocket, enter your pin code and manipulate data apps on a screen.
Distractible multitasking in this mode is not capable of saving time, and will expose the wearer to the risk of collisions on roads and cycle and walk paths. I am all for new gadgets that improve access to instant information and all the (brief) joy that it brings, but not at the expense of hurting yourself and others.
Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Good choice for Lion City's prime minister
Following the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the eulogising in the Asian media, the world media and this newspaper in particular, has been nothing short of spectacular.
What he hasn't been or is about to become, words could never describe.
But among the outpourings of grief have been many glaring omissions.
One of these contains just three words, Chia Thye Poh.
Under Singapore's Internal Security Act, Chia was imprisoned, without charge or trial, in 1966 for 23 years, followed by nine years under house arrest. That's a total of 32 years, five more than Nelson Mandela.
At the time of his release in 1998, he was one of the world's longest-serving political prisoners. He was therefore a prisoner longer than Lee Kuan Yew was premier and outlived him.
Wouldn't it be a wonderful gesture if Singaporeans now made him their prime minister?
David Robinson, Chai Wan
Country park the wrong place for flats
I know there is an urgent need for homes but I disagree with the proposal to build them in our country parks.
The country parks are very important for us and future generations. They are habitats for many species of animals and plants. So when parts of them are used for homes, then animal and plant habitats are destroyed. Some species might disappear from Hong Kong.
We would then lose an educational opportunity for young people to study some natural ecosystems. These parks are important places for busy Hongkongers to enjoy their time off. It simply is not worth sacrificing parts of these parks to supply more land.
I also do not think they are the most suitable locations for flats. They are quite far from urban areas and do not have particularly good transport links. Few people would want to live there. Also, developers would want to build luxury homes geared to rich people. This would not achieve the government's goal of providing more affordable housing.
There is a lot of abandoned farmland in the New Territories that could be used as sites for housing developments for the grass roots.
Once you have destroyed a natural habitat, you cannot reverse it. We should be aiming for sustainable development in Hong Kong.
Suki Chan, Yau Tong
Weed out the well-off public tenants
A recent survey showed that one of the chief concerns for young people in Hong Kong, along with politics and education, is housing.
Skyrocketing property prices make purchasing a flat beyond the reach of many citizens. This has a knock-on effect as families from the grass roots in society have to join a long waiting list for a flat in a public housing estate.
As a result, many must continue to live in subdivided units. I think part of the blame for this state of affairs lies with the government's lax attitude to public housing regulations.
This leads to inefficient use of inadequate public housing supplies. There are things the government could do to rectify this.
Firstly, it should plug the loopholes in the public housing asset test. There are cases where well-off families are occupying public housing units.
The present regulations are clearly failing to discourage such people from renting public flats.
I am sure there are few cases of these well-off families being forced to give up their apartments for deserving cases on the waiting list. There must be a much stricter test of people's assets.
Also, there is a mechanism for dealing with unruly tenants who repeatedly break the rules on estates, but it would appear that it is not being enforced. Such people who keep misbehaving should have tenancy agreements suspended. Again, this would free flats for people from the grass roots facing a long period of time on the waiting list.
Shirley Sham Wing-yin,Kowloon Tong
Too many HK students still inactive
Despite being encouraged to become involved in regular exercise, many Hong Kong students say pressure of academic work makes this impossible.
The curriculum is so full, along with homework, especially for secondary students, that there is simply no time left for sport and other outdoor activities.
Youngsters are becoming more aware of the fact that being physically active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but they need to be persuaded to adopt such a lifestyle.
The government needs to promote even simple exercises that young people can do.
Despite the heavy curriculum, schools must add more PE lessons and maybe offer an incentive, such as vouchers which can be exchanged for goods if students attend extra PE classes.
It is important to make having a regular exercise regime a part of your life at an early age so that young people grow up with the right attitude.
Jonathan Kung Chi-yip, Tuen Mun