Letters to the Editor, March 21, 2018

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 5:06pm

Bar developers that hoard from land auctions

I am writing in response to the letter from Paul Gardiner (“Easy to tax vacant flats”, March 19).

Ever since the financial chief opened the debate about taxing empty flats, there has been a flood of comments and proposals.

How easily people forget that Hong Kong’s success is built on some very important principles, the most important of which are the free market economy within the framework of a strong and ­independent legal system and a low tax regime. Any government interference with these principles would undermine Hong Kong’s status as one of the best places in the world to do business.

To experiment with punitive taxes which are applied indiscriminately bears many risks. To implement the rules will most likely become an administrative nightmare: costly, inefficient and in many cases unfair – what if you genuinely are looking for a buyer or tenant and can’t find one?

Exceptions to the rule and the required process of evaluation will only be beneficial to lawyers and tax consultants. This is not the direction Hong Kong should take.

Why not address the problem at source? The shortage of land supply, warehousing of land and completed developments, and the lack of competition: we have an oligopoly situation.

It is obvious that the solution can only be found by increasing competition among the existing developers and by opening up the property market to more potential developers (perhaps including a government property development corporation).

The major responsibility and business activity of a property ­developer must be to build and sell property. The main goal should not be to accumulate and hoard land or completed flats.

To achieve this, the government should set certain conditions and guidelines for the participants of land auctions. A developer who already owns a huge land bank which will take many years to develop and/or is warehousing completed flats must not be allowed to participate in auctions until their stock has been depleted to a reasonable level. In other words, hoarding would limit the future growth and profits of a developer. Quite the opposite of what it does today.

W.P. Berthold, Central

Why Trump needs a war with China

The American right-wing idea of “America First” has been so deeply etched in Donald Trump’s mind that it seems a Sino-American trade war is inevitable.

However, we should not overlook President Trump’s personal and family interests in trade.

Also, with his approval ratings so low and the need to draw up a re-election plan, Trump may have seen confronting China as the only choice to boost his stock, in keeping with the protectionism of his “America First” motto.

However, protectionism may hurt China but won’t be able to ruin its economy. That’s because though China is the world’s largest producer of steel, on which Trump has ­imposed a 25 per cent tariff, it is Canada that is the top steel exporter to the US, not China. Besides, the “Belt and Road” strategy can be a powerful tool for China to emerge stronger on the global business stage.

So American protectionism is unlikely to harm China in any big way. In fact, it is a manifestation of hostility, like the setting off of a cold war with China, which could hurt the global economy as a whole.

Randy Lee, Ma On Shan

TSA or BCA, pupils will still be stressed out

I am writing in response to your article on the review of the new Basic Competency Assessment for Primary Three pupils (“BCA ­‘expected to continue with changes’”, March 15).

The article said that the coordinating committee tasked with reviewing the BCA was likely to ­recommend that the controversial test be conducted by random sampling and that individual schools not be notified, so that the results of specific institutions are not identified.

The aim is to reduce schools’ motivation to put pupils through stressful drilling exercises – like they used to do for the Territory-wide System Assessment – so as to get a better ranking.

Some parents believe that the tendency to drill is hard to overcome and have called for the BCA to be cancelled this year, and for discussions on whether to continue with it at all. I strongly agree.

First, TSA or BCA, children will still suffer from stress over the test. Although the BCA is supposed to be simpler and shorter than the TSA, and even if random sampling is used, rest assured that schools will still give out endless exercises to pupils in a bid to boost their results and standing to parents. The problem caused by the TSA would not be solved.

Second, lack of creativity is a problem in our education system, which always emphasises tests and marks, and involves a lot of memorising of test answers. This is a poor attitude to learning.

I ­request the Education Bureau to think of a better solution.

Jacky Chan, Tseung Kwan O

Life has to be more than report cards

There has been a lot of debate on whether homework is good or bad for pupils. Here is a thought: life should be about more than just studying and report cards.

I realise education is very ­important, especially in Hong Kong where results can ­decide our future. But children should have the chance to explore their interests as well. Constant pressure about studies, and the lack of outdoor activities, can affect pupils psychologically.

Everyone’s life path is unique. Parents should give children a chance to choose the kind of life they want. Help them choose but do not decide for them.

Icy Po, Tsui Lam