Letters to the editor, March 2, 2016

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 March, 2016, 5:00pm

Electronic road pricing is not the answer

Hong Kong takes pride in its efficiency. Nonetheless, long queues of slow moving traffic are a problem in the central business district.

During peak periods, it can take more than 30 minutes to get into or out of Central. Congestion in this part of the city is nothing new, it has been a ­problem for three ­decades.

Over this period, the government has been looking at the possibility of introducing electronic road pricing (ERP) as a traffic management tool to tackle this traffic congestion in Central. Yet, it has not been implemented, because it will not tackle the root of the problem and will only make it worse.

The two main reasons for this congestion are the excessive number of private cars and poor urban planning.

ERP tries to stop traffic ­coming in, but does not address these two problems.

This charge system will shift the congestion problem to the neighbouring, quieter roads and they will then become clogged with ­traffic. As long as there is continued growth in the number of private cars in the territory, it is only a matter of time before the roads not ­covered by ERP also become clogged with traffic.

I do not think ERP should be adopted in Hong Kong.

Dani Hui Chui-shan, Yau Yat Chuen

Empty schools can provide more land

The government’s management of vacant school premises in Hong Kong has been unacceptable.

Because of the scarcity of land resources, the administration has proposed future land reclamation projects.

However, as members of a Legco committee have pointed out, making use of land on which these empty schools are located is a far better option.

The Education Bureau has to provide a full list of all vacant school premises. The official auditor found that “more than 100 closed schools had been ­lying empty and unused for up to 36 years” (“Management of vacant school land is ‘unacceptable’ ”, February 18).

Having a comprehensive list will help the Lands Department with any plans to reuse this land.

Furthermore, the department must do all it can to regain government ownership of the land, even that which is in ­private hands.

Reclamation projects would take many years to complete.

I would rather officials spent their time looking into the potential of redeveloping these empty school premises to help alleviate the land shortage problem as soon as possible.

These would be more ­suitable projects and they would be less time-consuming than reclamation.

Thomas Ng Yui-yin, Sha Tin

Elderly citizens struggle to pay medical bills

I think some of the measures announced in last week’s budget can help Hong Kong’s troubled economy.

However, it will leave a lot of elderly citizens disgruntled. I do not think it offered enough help to pensioners especially with regard to the elderly health care welfare scheme.

The government should be giving them more help when it comes to the provision of medical services. As people get older, their physical health deteriorates and they often have chronic conditions.

The age limit for the voucher scheme should be set at 65 or above and not 70.

Those elderly citizens who are poor are particularly vulnerable as they will struggle to pay their medical bills. More subsidies need to be made available to the elderly poor so that they can pay for medical treatment. If they can, for example, get body checks, this may prevent a ­disease or enable early diagnosis.

I hope next year’s budget will do a better job at helping our ­senior citizens.

Yan Fung, Ma On Shan

Insufficient subsidised care home places

I would like the government to offer more generous subsidies. For instance, the elderly health care voucher scheme should be raised to meet the rising medical needs of senior citizens.

This is important because of the increased problems associated with Hong Kong having an ageing society. As people get older, more pressure will be placed on our medical services. Many elderly people need to make frequent trips to clinics as they suffer from chronic, long-term diseases such as heart ­disease and diabetes. Their medical bills mount up.

Many elderly citizens from the grass roots, especially those who are disabled, struggle with the rising cost of living in Hong Kong. We have to ask if the ­annual sum of HK$2,000 for the elderly health care voucher scheme is sufficient. Can it ­provide enough for elderly ­citizens who must see specialists or need follow-up consultations? This undermines the aim of the scheme, which is to get more ­patients to visit private clinics and take the pressure off public hospitals.

Also, I believe the government needs to build more subsidised nursing homes. Many pensioners now are on their own and are desperately in need of decent and affordable accommodation.

There is an urgent need for the government to tackle the shortage of subsidised nursing home places for these vulnerable citizens who need residential care.

The government must now come up with a comprehensive plan to tackle the ageing population.

Jane So, Fanling

Finance chief right to call for reconciliation

The government has come under fire for many of its ­policies. However, aspects of the budget speech by Financial ­Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah were praised.

I agreed with his comments on last month’s Mong Kok riot, which he said represented an attack on Hong Kong’s core ­beliefs.

He said that he could not understand how “core values that we long cherished had been devoured by violence and ­hatred”.

People are entitled to express their views, but not by the use of violence.

Those who cause chaos, even if they do so because they claim to love Hong Kong, undermine the reputation it has long enjoyed as a safe city. Our society has become polarised following the Mong Kok riot.

Mr Tsang talked about the need to set aside short-term political considerations and show determination in solving these man-made problems.

It is good that his budget did not just focus on financial planning and the economy, but also looked at planning for our ­society.

Howard Lai Kwan-lung, Lam Tin

Backing new Avenue of Stars project

The original plans for the ­revamp of the Avenue of Stars on Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront have been revised.

The original plan was to close the popular tourist attraction for around three years. There were to be observation decks, a film gallery and more food and beverage outlets.

However, this proposal was cancelled in favour of a simpler project which should only take about 1½ years.

It will involve replacing worn-out railings and floor tiles, some additional green features, and more outdoor seating and toilets. I support this modified plan as I do not want the Avenue of Stars to lose its old look.

Every time I walk along this part of the waterfront, it helps me feel relaxed. It is the kind of place people can visit and forget their day-to-day concerns.

I can understand the argument of those who supported the original scheme, that more tourists would be attracted to enhanced entertainment facilities. However, the unique character of the attraction might have been destroyed and it can only cope with so many tourists. It may have led to price rises and, if there were large crowds, generated a lot of noise pollution.

I hope the Avenue of Stars will keep its old look and remain one of the few places in Hong Kong where people can go to ­relax.

Cheng Si-wa, Kowloon Tong