Letters to the Editor, July 06, 2016

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2016, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2016, 4:42pm

Real concerns over universal pension pleas

I refer to Richard Wong’s article (“The logic behind universal pensions”, June 28 ).

When it comes to the politics of pensions, politicians are often tempted to do what sounds right (that is, give in to populism) against doing what is right (focus on meaningfulness and sustainability).

While it may sound right to adopt the “regardless of rich or poor” approach where every Hongkonger receives a universal pension at retirement, the key issues are how meaningful this will be for each and every Hongkonger, and how sustainable is the scheme.

At HK$3,230 each month, the proposed amount is just 21 per cent of the average wage level in Hong Kong at the end of 2015. Hence for those making more than the average wage level, and/or not retiring within the next decade, the true value of a universal pension under the ­“regardless of rich or poor” approach has to be weighed against higher future income tax liability.

Critically, a universal pension will also not dispense with the need to save more for retirement. In the face of a declining fertility rate, Hong Kong citizens can no longer hope to rely on traditional family ­support for retirement. Longevity also necessitates saving more to cope with potentially higher future medical expenses. But how would Hongkongers save more if income after tax shrinks?

The discussion on greater retirement security for Hong Kong should not be a debate on whether a universal pension system based on “regardless of rich or poor” or “those with financial need” is better. For citizens earning more than the average wage level, enhancing the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme and increasing contribution rates should be the focus.

Granted that higher contribution rates would be unpopular, from the individual’s perspective, it is ultimately preferable to paying more income tax. As the Global Ageing Institute ­noted in its report, “Global ­Ageing and Retirement Security in Emerging Markets”, a funded pension system, such as the MPF, can generate higher rates of return than a pay-as-you-go universal pension system. Therefore, it can offer higher replacement rates at any given contribution rate.

Hence, while pay-as-you-go systems face a zero-sum trade-off between raising taxes or cutting benefits as countries age, funded systems can help them to escape the tyranny of their own demography.

Thomas Cheong, vice-president, head of North Asia, Principal Financial Group

Destruction of the UK almost inevitable

Jason Ali of Lantau is a safe ­distance from which to admire the exiting of the UK from the EU (“Back to the good old days for the UK”, June 30).

The now almost inevitable destruction of the UK into “Little England” and Wales (unless Spain can stop it) is not something I find admirable.

Even without it, the enforced and unplanned severing of long-established ties at almost every level of life will heap a complex, messy burden to repair on those left behind.

The reduction in wealth generated by the ­reduced number of people, ­including immigrants, paying into the exchequer will undermine the National Health Service, the military and every other significant institution financed by the taxpayer. Pension funds are badly hit and the pound is blown away. While this makes exports cheaper, because of the inherent uncertainties that have invaded the various markets, the number of firms making stuff for export is set to decline, jobs will be lost and so it goes on down the slippery slope.

About the only thing that has gone up is hate crime. Well, congratulations on an admirable job well done.

Peter Berry, Lamma

‘Remain’ PM will ensure smooth talks

In its negotiation with the EU leaders, the UK should have a prime minister who was in the Remain camp.

As a supporter of the UK’s EU membership, such a premier would share goodwill with the EU leaders who, fully aware of the decision of the UK’s electorate to leave the EU, would lend an understanding ear to this leader, thus creating a negotiating atmosphere conducive to a win-win situation.

If a Brexit prime minister were to negotiate with the EU leaders, the atmosphere would be acrimonious. In fact, to be answerable to the Brexit electorate, such a premier would have to be intransigent and the negotiations would go nowhere.

Alex Ng, Sham Shui Po

Wrong to join with Europe’s energy vandals

Malcolm Turnbull signed Australia onto the Paris climate agreement.

This appalling document should be forever draped around his neck like a dead albatross.

We need our own “Clexit” – climate exit from the energy vandals of Europe.

Viv Forbes, Rosevale, Queensland, Australia

Urgent action required to save the planet

The annual Earth Day in April gives us all a chance to celebrate the beauty and wonder of this planet.

Hopefully, it can raise our awareness of the need to protect it. In recent decades, global warming has aroused wide ­concern among various circles. Many people now argue that the time is ripe for everyone to make changes, while others still do not understand the urgent need for action.

We live in a global village so we all have to take responsibility to protect the earth. Too many of us take the planet’s finite natural resources for granted. We must learn to love and protect it.

We should try to ensure that we preserve these resources and natural wonders for the next generation to enjoy. And we should not be too selfish and abuse what we have. The selfish attitude of some people causes immense damage to the environment. Youths of today should think of youths of the ­future.

The environment is inextricably linked to all walks of life. Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have predicted that average global temperatures could increase between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100.

This will lead to rising sea levels, and an increase in the occurrence of severe weather events.

We have to grasp the nettle and deal with the problem now.

Kary Chan, Tseung Kwan O

We cannot just sit back and let people starve

I heard on Tuesday morning on BBC news that more than 60,000 Syrian nationals, trapped in four Syrian villages, could die of starvation.

The United Nations has failed in one of its main missions, namely, to convince the five permanent members of its Security Council (the US, Russia, China, UK and France) to take urgent ­action in order to avert such a disastrous situation from developing.

These poor people are desperately calling out for help and their pleas are falling on deaf ears.

It is shameful that the world observes these tragedies unfolding in the 21st century and no immediate action is taken by any of these mighty powers. At the very least, they could drop food supplies and other necessities, using the many aircraft that some of these nations are deploying to drop bombs.

Has the world lost its conscience, and chosen inaction once again, after similar tragedies, for example, during the second world war and in ­Rwanda, while desperate ­people perish? Shame on us all.

Shalom Levy, Tsim Sha Tsui