Letters to the Editor, February 14, 2016
Retirement scheme wrong term for MPF
I refer to Enoch Yiu’s column (“Call MPF conservative funds what they are: bank deposits”, February 2).
The Mandatory Provident Fund in Hong Kong is a joke and a misnomer to be a called a retirement scheme. It is more like an investment body that collects money by law from poor people and gives it away to trustees who in turn invest as they like and make a profit.
If people lose their old age retirement funds in risky investments made by trustees on their behalf there are no penalties nor any criminal or financial liability imposed by the government on trustees. What a simple way to get easy money with the connivance of the government, make a profit and get away with it.
The government and MPF Authority talk about a universal pension scheme yet fail to understand the concept of a pension or learn how other countries manage pension and retirement funds.
Is it any wonder their invest their savings in conservative or guaranteed funds (18 per cent of MPF assets) in the hope that they will at least get back something rather than nothing should they invest in riskier funds?
Moreover, what does one expect from an uninformed wage earner about financial investment? The government takes them for a ride with impunity with a false hope of according them savings for their old age when the reality is far from it.
If the government cannot protect retirement saving under MPF then the people should have a choice not to join it. Such savings are not to make the trustees rich at the expense of the needy.
Simon Datta, Pok Fu Lam
Street food a unique part of city’s culture
Hong Kong’s culture seems to be taking backward steps. Take, for example, the local food culture which is represented by street food sold by hawkers. The events in Mong Kok on Monday night showed that a lot Hongkongers care deeply about preserving street food.
Some people complain about the lack of hygiene at some of these stalls. However, the best vendors make superb food and it is much cheaper than a normal restaurant. This is important for people with limited budgets like me.
Diners with concerns about cleanliness can simply avoid these stalls. But, I find that many of the vendors making food such as fishballs which they prepare themselves, ensure good hygiene and their products are safe to eat. It is up to the customer to take care and look at a stall before deciding to place an order.
Hong Kong street food has been with us for decades and it is part our traditional cuisine. If the government continues to crack down on it, something unique will soon disappear. Local culture is an integral part of the identity and spirit of a city and we should all be trying to protect it.
Vivian Tang, Tseung Kwan O
Stories in Verdi opera relevant to modern HK
I would like to share my excitement, as consul general of Italy, at the upcoming visit to the Hong Kong Arts Festival of the Teatro Regio di Torino — Turin’s “Royal Theatre” — to perform Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Simon Boccanegra.
Opera can seem like a rarified, elite art form, but if Hong Kong people give it a chance, they will find much that resonates. Simon Boccanegra is based on the man who was Genoa’s first doge (the ruler of the republic) in the 14th century.
Medieval Genoa, like Hong Kong, was a maritime trading city.
It also arguably invented banking: Genoa issued the first public bond in 1150 and the first tradable government bonds in the 13th century. The Genoese Bank of San Giorgio – the HSBC of its day, perhaps – financed Christopher Columbus’s voyages of discovery.
Simon Boccanegra was written and first performed at a time when Italy was unifying as a single country and contains an appeal for the citizens to think of themselves as Italians, not just as Genoese.
It also tells of the dangers of factionalism in politics, of the difficulties faced by leaders in managing the expectations of the popular process that brought them to power, and of the pernicious effects of irrational political enmity. But the opera is also a story of a leader who reconciles himself with his political enemies in order to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. But it is, like so many Verdi operas, also a dramatic story of love, misunderstanding and regret, combined with unforgettable music. No composer rivals Verdi in his ability to draw the audience into complex political landscapes through intimate, personal stories.
Living in Hong Kong gives me a new perspective on my own country, and I cannot help but be struck by the similarities between Hong Kong and episodes in Italy’s history.
That is why I am so pleased at this unique opportunity to have one of Italy’s leading cultural organisations here to present this work that is at once deeply rooted in the Italian experience yet still so illuminating even, or perhaps especially, to this place thousands of kilometres away.
Antonello De Riu, consul general of Italy in Hong Kong and Macau
Sensible use of smartphone by parents helps
Smartphones are playing a more important role in the lives of so many Hong Kong citizens.
A mobile phone is no longer simply a means of communication. Now you can take photos and play computer games.
To a large extent I think these are positive developments provided people ensure sensible use of these devices, but there can be negative aspects.
It is now recognised that some people can become addicted to their smartphones poring over the screens using the keyboard for up to 10 hours a day. They may overuse social network sites like Facebook or the popular mobile app WhatsApp. They get to the point where they cannot imagine being without their mobiles, even for short periods.
This obviously has an adverse effect on their lives, including damaging relationships with family members and friends. They will opt to communicate with people via the smartphone rather than face to face. It is good for all of us to sometimes sit down and just talk with friends.
Even some children have become addicted.
Their parents need to see the danger signs or prevent the problem developing by acting as role models.
If they restrict their use of their smartphones, this will have a positive influence on their sons and daughters.
Jordan Chan Wai-tsun, Tseung Kwan O
With so many tests, stress levels are high
There is no doubt about the negative impact of the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA).
Not only do students face more homework, but they also have to do more exams and tests. They need to keep practising and drilling after school and also during lessons.
If teachers have to do so much practising for the TSA test they might not have sufficient time to cover all of the curriculum in class during the school term.
I can understand how this happens. Pressure is being put on teachers, because schools want good grades and therefore good TSA results.
In fact the whole education system in Hong Kong focuses a lot on exam and exam results. And this not only affects secondary schools. Pupils at primary level are also under pressure. Results are more important now as Hong Kong is becoming a knowledge-based economy.
However, because students are under greater pressure to do well they become more tired. I accept that exams do have an important role to play as they can encourage students to work harder.
However, a balance must be struck. If students are put under too much pressure they may lose interest in their studies and their motivation to excel.
The Education Bureau should recognise that problems exist and try to relieve some of the stress that so many students feel.
Kassandra Wong Hiu-tung, Tseung Kwan O
Lack of sleep is becoming a problem
It appears that more Hongkongers are not getting enough sleep at night.
This is a serious problem, as people who suffer from sleep deprivation can then develop physical and psychological problems.
There is also a link between sleep and food disorders with people who have difficulty sleeping overeating (especially snacks) and putting on a lot of weight.
I can understand why people develop these problems in Hong Kong. It is a hectic city and most citizens are very busy in their jobs and work long hours. They often face such a punishing workload that they do not have time to rest and do not get enough sleep.
However, lack of sleep does not make them more efficient in the office, because if you are very tired you will find even simple tasks more difficult and you are more likely to make mistakes.
People need to see the danger signs and try to manage their time and daily lives in a more organised way.
They need to ensure they have some free time so they can relax and do even some simple exercises.
Connie Ma ,Wong Tai Sin