Letters to the editor, March 17, 2016

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 5:52pm

Goods and services tax idea flawed

I refer to your editorial (“Time for rational debate on taxes”, March 2) noting the pressing ­importance of implementing fiscal reforms in Hong Kong with a view to broadening the tax base and matching projected ­future increases in government expenditure.

It is most frequently mentioned that the introduction of an indirect goods and services tax is the most effective means by which to broaden the tax base. As a tax practitioner with experience in European jurisdictions, I disagree with that view. Such a tax is fundamentally regressive and weighs most heavily on the most vulnerable sectors of society.

Consider the number of Hong Kong residents, often of modest means, who go to restaurants for most of their meals and who would thereby be faced with a significant increase in their daily expenditure, exacerbating already worrying levels of income inequality.

Also, it would be a difficult tax to administer; Hong Kong’s only substantial exposure to indirect tax has historically been excise duty.

A viable alternative may be the introduction of a capital gains tax on residential property held by non-Hong Kong residents, including companies residing outside Hong Kong.

The advantage of that approach is that taxation would be fundamentally progressive and ensure that those from outside Hong Kong who come to the city and enjoy its physical security, rule of law, and civic and governmental discipline, contribute proportionately to their enjoyment of those public goods.

L. Mak, Sai Ying Pun

Filibustering hurts those who need help

There is no doubt that Hong Kong has a lot of problems that need to be solved.

For this to happen, the government’s proposed policies have to be passed in the Legislative Council chamber. There are many poor people in Hong Kong waiting for help from the adminstration. However, they cannot get it unless the necessary legislation is enacted and the funds are freed to allow the government to implement those ­policies which will offer some relief to these citizens.

They are being let down by those legislators who, through their filibusters, delay the passage of these policies.

In the past, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has warned of the dire consequences of these filibusters. In 2013, he talked of a “fiscal cliff” if filibustering delayed the budget bill. These tactics not only make it difficult for him to deal with the problems Hong Kong faces, but can also lead to taxpayers’ money being wasted.

They make it difficult for the council to function as it should.

I wish those lawmakers would appreciate that by the use of filibustering tactics, they are damaging Hong Kong.

Stephanie Ho, Lai King

LGBT groups just want equal treatment

Lee Yiu-chu is fundamentally wrong when he says that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender groups are seeking “minority privileges over the majority” (“LGBT groups’ ­tactics harm their cause”, March 15).

They are not seeking “privileges” over anybody – they are seeking the same treatment as everyone else. They want the same right not to be sacked, and to marry who they love, and the same right to enjoy partner benefits as everyone else.

We do not, thankfully, live in a theocracy, so while everyone has the right to practise whatever religion they like, nobody’s religion replaces the rule of law. Laws are made by people of all religions, and belief or non-belief groups, and nobody has any right to insist that their moral code be superior to the law.

In fact, your correspondent is on very dodgy ground citing the Catholic Church, an organisation that is being investigated for embezzlement, money laundering and the ongoing systematic covering up of child rape.

Lee Faulkner, Lamma

Give students chance to find inner strength

I am glad a serious discussion is under way after the recent spate of student suicides in Hong Kong.

After working in the education sector for over 10 years, in the private and public sector, and after speaking to many students, schools and parents, I understand the gravity of the ­situation.

There is obviously something wrong with the local teaching and learning system.

It indirectly teaches ­students to think like losers. I have seen hundreds of local children go from kindergarten to primary school with so much enthusiasm and optimism but when they reach Primary One to Two, there is a sense of desperation in most of them, as if they want to escape.

Our children are treated as memory machines to pass standardised testing.

Local students only use four skills in the classroom – sit, ­listen, take notes, remember. And they do this for 13 years from primary to secondary school. They are even starting this practice in kindergarten now. Children who are unable to express themselves and are treated as robots suffer psychologically. I am not surprised that some of them have taken their own lives. I foresee more tragedies in the near future.

The present education system teaches them to think of themselves as losers and to be weak-willed.

They need to be taught to be strong-willed, to find an inner mental strength. That should be the priority, with ­academic achievements seen as a secondary goal.

Peter Cheung, Tai Po

School system piles on too much pressure

The recent suicides of students have drawn attention to the pressures youngsters feel because of the education system.

They are given too much homework and with extracurricular activities on top of that, this can mean they are working at home until midnight. And ­because they go to school tired the next day, this makes them less efficient.

The local school system is also very competitive. You must compete for a place in a better school and in a university. The syllabus of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education needs to be trimmed. Schools cannot teach all of it during ­lessons. This forces teachers to schedule extra lessons after school, at weekends and during holidays. It is difficult for youngsters to relax and this leaves them feeling mentally and physically exhausted.

Many feel they must get to university or their hopes of a good career will be dashed. They push themselves because their parents also have expectations of academic success.

There is nothing wrong with students facing obstacles. Overcoming them helps teenagers to grow. However, the government has to realise that the education system needs to be reformed.

Cherry Sung, Kowloon Tong

Lantau traffic a question of balance

I refer to the letter from assistant commissioner for transport (New Territories) Irene Ho, (“Impact of more traffic on ­Lantau being closely watched”, March 11).

Ms Ho said that the Transport Department “consulted the Traffic and Transport Committee of Islands District Council, Lantau’s four rural committees, public transport operators in south Lantau, the tourism sector and 36 green groups and the traffic and ­transport subcommittee of the Lantau Development Advisory in mid-2015”.

The Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners wishes to clarify that the tourism sector and the hotel ­industry have not been ­consulted by the department ­regarding the subject of more traffic in south Lantau.

We support a balanced development on Lantau Island, and the views of major stakeholders have to be sought before any policy is formulated.

Michael Li, executive director, Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners