Letters to the Editor, March 1, 2017

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 4:41pm

Housing must be seen as a basic necessity

The refutation to Lau Ping Cheung’s article (“Block by block”, February 20) extolling the virtues of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s supply side boost to ­resolve Hong Kong’s housing problems was ironically ­published in your newspaper the previous day.

You reported that one first-time buyer purchased 15 apartments in a single go (“First-time buyer splashes out on 15 Kai Tak flats”, February 19). With this kind of demand, we could cover every square inch of Hong Kong in housing and there still wouldn’t be enough supply.

What is needed is bold thinking by Hong Kong’s leaders. Housing needs to be recognised as a basic necessity of life and crucial to social stability, not only a financial asset. Government policies should be aimed at making housing less attractive as an investment. As I have written several times in this paper, the only way to do so is through a quarterly rates tax that penalises property hoarding.

Normal pricing signals do not work in a market where a ­minority group of wealthy landowners control the entire free float of available flats and collude to keep rents and sales ­prices high. House prices have done nothing but go up in the past five years, even as the ­supply of flats has increased substantially.

The rich have simply got richer and will continue to do so under Mr Lau’s proposals. Many of our high government officials are in this group so I am not ­optimistic about change.

Keith Noyes, Clear Water Bay

Right kind of tourism helps environment

Ecotourism is essential for countries and developed cities. It can boost tourist numbers and reduces the harm done to ­ecosystems.

Traditional tourism can have a huge negative impact on the environment. Infrastructure projects such as roads can ­destroy the habitats of different species.

Ecotourism is the best way to strike a balance between ­expanding the tourism sector and protecting the environment. Visitors welcome the chance to see pristine places where their presence will not harm habitats. And it can prove profitable for local residents ­offering services to these ­people.

Ecotourism is one way for a country to aim for sustainable development.

Ethan Cheung, Tsuen Wan

Why Uber is so popular with HK citizens

I think there is no doubt that the car-hailing app Uber should be legalised in Hong Kong.

It is particularly relevant with the rise of what is known as the “sharing economy”, where people can share unused capacity, reducing wasted resources.

This can mean greater utilisation of private vehicles, which alleviates the financial burden of private vehicle ownership.

Also, Uber can compete with local taxi operators and this will improve the service quality of taxi drivers. Once local cabbies can match Uber in terms of providing a good-quality service, they will be able to maintain high passenger numbers.

There have been a lot of complaints about local taxis, such as overcharging and it is this high level of discontent that is leading to citizens choosing Uber. Taxi operators and drivers have to accept this and make the ­necessary improvements.

Hongkongers find Uber convenient. Through their smartphones, they can order it at any time and anywhere. This is important late at night when they have difficulty finding a taxi, the MTR has closed and there is only a limited overnight bus service.

Opponents to legalisation of Uber referred to concerns over insurance, but it now provides third-party coverage (“Insurance coverage Uber closer to being legalised”, February 24).

Priscilla Ko Ka-ying, Tiu Keng Leng

Bus drivers cannot always stick to rules

There is a controversy surrounding bus drivers and whether they should be allowed to illegally let passengers off ­outside the designated ­perimeters of bus stops.

Bus firms have argued that it can be difficult for drivers ­because of congestion in some busy areas and illegal parking at bus stops by vehicles, especially taxis.

We have to understand the problems these drivers face. There will be times when they simply cannot pull in exactly at the designated stop, through no fault of their own. The distance from the actual stop is not that far so I do not see a problem.

The government should consider having more taxi ranks to discourage illegal parking and keep bus stops clear.

Joyce Chang, Yau Yat Chuen

Health care got short shrift in flawed budget

After reading this year’s budget speech, if it was a report card, I would only give it a pass grade.

It lacked the kind of forward-looking initiatives that are ­needed to tackle the long-term problems facing Hong Kong.

The ageing population is one of those problems and it ­requires immediate and careful financial planning, but it was ­overlooked in the budget.

The proportion of elderly people aged 65 or above will ­increase twofold within 50 years from 15 per cent of the total population in 2014 to 33 per cent in 2064. This will place a heavy financial burden on health care services.

There has only been a ­modest annual increase in health care expenditure by the government. And the only ­measure to tackle the increasing demand for health care services from the ageing population is to offer tax incentives to encourage Hong Kong people to buy ­regulated health insurance products. This approach is far from ­adequate to tackle the problem.

With such a huge surplus of HK$92 billion, the government should make better use of financial resources to improve the health care system and meet the challenges that we will face in the future.

Law Yin-ting, Sheung Shui

Same-sex marriage law is justified

Chow Ka-wing does not want Hong Kong to rush in legislation allowing same-sex marriages (“Take time over same-sex union law”, February 19).

In recent years, I think ­homosexuals have been subjected to less discrimination, but some citizens still feel prejudice, ­including a few religious groups, which fear that such a law will encourage more people to ­become homosexuals.

I believe in legalising same-sex unions. Also, there is no ­evidence to show that children suffer from having same-sex parents.

I hope the day will come in our society when all citizens will respect homosexuals and ­same-sex unions.

Coco Huang Tsz-chin, Tsuen Wan