THE three-month consultation proposals, endorsed by the Executive Council in a bid to eliminate congestion by discouraging people from using private cars, will not be a positive way to solve the problem, but cause more than a few squawks from the middle class.
Transport Secretary Haider Barma’s money grabbing package would by all means deter the number of cars from soaring at a rampant speed - with an 86 per cent jump from 1984’s 147,616 to the latest figure of 274,911 - but it would also increase the problem of inflation. It will only result in another awkward situation being suffered by all citizens of Hongkong.
By setting a quota on sales of private cars and reducing or eliminating the tax privileges for companies in the medium term, it would pose a compelling threat to the further development of Hongkong economy.
Once the sales of private cars are reduced, it is inevitable that car companies would cut their costs in order to compensate for their loss of business. Many salespersons would become unemployed as a result and it is they who will suffer the most. It is undoubtedly a silly way to solve the traffic congestion at the expense of this small group.
In order to keep the annual increase of private car at two per cent, the government intends to control the sales of private cars in the range of 20,000 to 24,000. This is a system copied from that of Singapore. Controlling the sales will bid up prices and encourage speculation.
These phenomenon already exist in Singapore. It is unreasonable for the government to solve the traffic problem by taking intervention in the market.
It is also unfair to solve the problem by merely focusing on private cars. Generally speaking, the largest group using private cars is the middle class. Regulating the sales of private car means attacking them.
To solve the chaotic traffic situation is the responsibility of all citizens. There is no reason to compel only the middle classes to take up the whole burden.
The proposed electronic road pricing system is also an unfair idea which only makes drivers the scapegoats of a chaotic situation. The purpose of the pricing system, according to the government, is to encourage drivers to use alternative roads.
But such routes may not exist in the real situation. For example, if someone is to use Tuen Mun Road or the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, he or she can have no choice because there are few or even no alternatives.
The government should realise that to charge road users is never an ideal means to tackle the problem. Doubling the tunnel fees for the Cross- Harbour Tunnel in the past was proved to be a useless method since people would get used to the increase.
What the government should do is not to “penalise” road users but to envisage a long-term workable method to solve the problem.
The authorities concerned should speed up roadworks projects and allocate more funds to improving the design of infrastructure and build up a better transport network, aiming at encouraging people to use public transport.
Barma's proposal is nothing but theoretical without any concrete evidence in support. So far there are no statistics showing that the increase of the first registration tax, annual license fee, and tunnel toll will help to alleviate the worsening traffic jams.
If these so-called expedients prove to be unfeasible after a certain period of implementation, would he be responsible for the whole situation by either resigning or compensating the sufferers? or disappear by July 1,1997 with a shrug of shoulders without expressing his apologies to Hongkong people?