Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Hong Kong taxi drivers should welcome a premium service that will meet consumer demand

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-03-23

Anthony Cheung believes the 600 new franchised cabs will meet people’s demand for higher-quality rides. Hong Kong can well accommodate two types of service, and the taxi trade should not see change as a threat

 

Responses from the public and taxi trade to the Hong Kong government’s latest proposal on franchised taxis seem to be quite diverse. The public generally welcomes the new choice and calls for its early introduction, whereas some members of the taxi trade are worried about the impact of the new service on existing taxis.

The government has been listening to views in the community. We first mooted the idea of a premium taxi service in November 2015, to meet the community’s demand for personalised public transport services of higher quality. We have met members of the taxi trade, unions and other stakeholders through various channels, and we have been monitoring public opinion and media comments.

Adjustments were made to the preliminary proposals put forward last June, to address the concerns of the taxi trade on the one hand, and to better meet passengers’ demand for a more efficient and higher-quality “online car hailing” service on the other hand.

The 600 franchised taxis to be introduced represent only about 3 per cent of the 18,000-odd taxis in Hong Kong. Hence, they should not be seen as a threat to the survival of ordinary taxis.

Their role is to bridge the gap in the existing taxi market and respond to a very clear demand for new choice. With differentials in fare levels as well as operating and service features (at least half of the taxis in the new fleets are required to have wheelchair access), the move will help define two complementary taxi sectors. As an international city, Hong Kong can accommodate two types of taxis to meet diversified demand, just like, for example, Singapore and Tokyo.

In response to the concern of some trade members about an unrestrained number of franchised taxis in future, the government has now proposed to stipulate a statutory cap on the number of franchised taxis at 600. Any future adjustment of the cap will require a legislative amendment.

Having regard to the views of the taxi trade, the government may consider relaxing the proposed mandatory tendering requirement to have a formal employer-employee relationship between the franchisee and the drivers.

Yet, we still consider an employer-employee relationship conducive to providing employment stability for drivers and attracting new blood to the trade. Hence, tenderers’ specific proposals for monitoring the service quality of drivers, as well as their reward and penalty system, will be an essential criterion for assessment.

To address the concern that existing taxi operators may be excluded from participating in the franchised taxi market, the government now proposes to give a higher score to tenderers with experience in operating taxi and other public transport services in Hong Kong, provided they will operate the new service under the franchise model. We further propose that operators be required to pay a franchise fee.

Some worry that the launch of franchised taxis may aggravate traffic congestion.

Looking at it from a different perspective, the target clientele of franchised taxis will include some private car commuters; hence franchised taxis may actually help reduce the number of private cars on the road.

In response to the taxi trade’s concern about the shortage of drivers, we consider that appropriate facilitating measures (including proper driver training and more stable and better-protected employment arrangements) will help attract new blood to the trade.

The government is reviewing the existing requirement that applicants for driving licences of commercial vehicles (including taxis) must have held a valid licence for driving a private car or light goods vehicle for at least three years.

Franchised taxis are a new choice for passengers who need a premium service, while existing taxis, with their lower fares, will continue to provide the bulk of the taxi service for the general public.

As such, the government will certainly not abandon the existing 18,000 or so taxis. We will continue to work closely with the trade to explore how to improve the existing taxi service and formulate proactive measures.

In the course of studying the launch of franchised taxis, the government has listened to the views of the whole community, not just those of the taxi trade. We are not working behind closed doors. The public demands more choices and reforms. We have to think out of the box and act responsibly.

Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung is Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing

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Why Hong Kong and Singapore must help their airlines soar

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-03-22

Derwin Pereira says no laissez-faire principles can be prized more than the symbolic importance of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines to each territory

When unbearable abdominal pain attacks you while you are flying 37,000 feet above the Pacific, hours away from your destination, you literally are at the mercy of the cabin crew. How they react depends on the culture of the airline, the crew’s practical training, and, finally, on a visceral capacity for human responsiveness.

I fell ill, with what was diagnosed later as a kidney stone attack, two hours into a recent Singapore Airlines flight from San Francisco to Singapore via Hong Kong. Members of the inflight staff gave me medication based on the advice of specialists on the ground. When the flight landed in Hong Kong, an ambulance was ready for me. So was a member of the airline staff who chaperoned me to the nearest hospital. I was on the next flight home after the check-up.

During my detour through Hong Kong, thinking about Singapore Airlines naturally made me take a comparative look at Cathay Pacific.

Both are premium Asian airlines. Both symbolise the audacious international reach of the minuscule territories where they originated. Both are under pressure from upstarts in other parts of Asia and even in their own regional backyards. Both have loyal customers who see them as national possessions. And both need their governments to accord them the courtesy given to national institutions.

Consider Singapore Airlines. I fly it because I am Singaporean. The airline is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. For me, though, its provenance dates from 1972, when it became the national carrier of Singapore seven years into the country’s independence.

The airline represents for me the capacity of a man-made institution to outwit hostile natural circumstances through Darwinian determinism. The ethic of survival and success, which motivated Singapore from the first moment of its independence, is written into the airline’s rationale. Singapore Airlines is to the skies what Singapore is to the land.

The airline is a national icon. In Singapore’s internationalised economic space, it is comparable in symbolic significance with the civil service and the Singapore Armed Forces. The civil service has overseen a city state’s transformation from third world to first world. The military ensures that the city remains a state.

Commercially, Singapore Airlines is Singapore’s face to the world, offering the first glimpse of what this country offers to foreigners. Those unimpressed with its standards are unlikely to be enchanted by the nation which lies beyond Changi Airport.

For Singaporeans, to whom the world does not owe a living, Singapore Airlines is a concrete example of how an unexpected nation can make a living, and a reasonably good one at that.

Cathay Pacific, I’d imagine, occupies a similar place in the Hong Kong public imagination. It began life as an airline that capitalised on its Asian locale even in colonial Hong Kong. Two decades into the city’s return to China, Cathay is not only a Chinese airline but also a Hong Kong Chinese airline, its mystique distinguished clearly from the larger cultural context in which mainland Chinese airlines operate.

Symbolically, Cathay is to Hong Kong’s autonomy in the air what the territory’s political and economic institutions are to its special status on the ground. To put it bluntly, Air China is, and is seen as, a Chinese airline, and in the larger framework of Chinese aviation, Cathay was, is and will be a Hong Kong airline.

This is why governments, like their peoples, need to view iconic airlines in special ways.

There is one impediment. Both Singapore and Hong Kong made their mark on the international economy by practising largely laissez-faire policies. Economic nationalism was a suicidal idea because it meant that small entities could be excluded legitimately from larger markets for political or ethnic reasons. Whatever the good or the service involved – whether apparel or airlines – economic access to the global hinterland was essential for Hong Kong and Singapore.

After all, Singapore Airlines could hardly fly from Changi to Seletar – where there’s an airport serving private jets – any more than Cathay could fly from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island. Economic territorialism outside their borders spells physical doom.

Propelled on by the salutary limitations of domestic geography, Singapore and its Singapore Airlines, and Hong Kong and its Cathay remained a bridge between the contending worlds of capitalism and communism even during the cold war.

That was then. Today, West Asian airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways are leveraging on their geographical position between Asia and Europe. Meanwhile, the Pacific routes from Singapore and Hong Kong are up for grabs to regional challengers, not least from mainland China itself. Sovereign wealth funds help fuel the rise of some West Asian airlines. Flagship carriers in China or Malaysia have national coffers to fall back on.

To mix metaphors, there is no reason for Hong Kong or Singapore to abjure the sink-or-swim philosophy that made their airlines great. But they must ensure that those airlines do not now sink because other countries are intent on keeping their airlines shipshape.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay must take to the skies, carrying the aspiration of millions inscribed into their names.

Derwin Pereira heads Pereira International, a Singapore-based political consultancy. He is also a member of Harvard University’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs


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香港私立自資院校策略性角色(上)

信報財經新聞
教育講論
2017-03-04

何順文

在香港,非牟利私立自資(或稱民辦或獨立)高等院校的重要性,一直未受到應有的重視,政策落後於整個形勢與環球趨勢,也是對香港作為國際先進經濟體的一個諷刺和缺陷。政府曾提及的公私型雙軌發展模式有待急起直追。

本文將以上下篇探討一下,香港私立自資高等院校的策略性角色。

2000年前政府多年來一直奉行英式精英主義,嚴緊控制學位教育,只由政府資助(或稱公營)院校供應及壟斷,資助學士學額嚴重短缺。多年來適齡入學率維持少於兩成,也嚴重造成社會不公,違反了大學教育普及化的環球趨勢。

最近一項國際調查顯示只有兩成香港勞動人口有學士學位,大幅落後於其他先進經濟體的四成多。這個偏低教育程度未能應付一個知識型社會的需要。社會不斷演變前進,學歷愈低就業或流動的機會就愈低,人們不斷要自我增值。

發展起步遲須追趕

自2000年起,香港高等教育發生了基本的變化。2000年9月教統會在其(二十一世紀的教育藍圖)報告中,建議政府鼓勵私立專上院校經評審後頒發學位。報告指出發展私立大學能驅動社會各界為高教出資獻力,提供多元互補的教育機會,造福學生。另外,前特首董建華於2000年《施政報告》承諾「十年內讓高等教育的普及率達到60%」,但實際上大幅增加的學額不足兩成為學士水平。

奮鬥多年的私立樹仁學院,早年曾拒絕政府直接資助,堅持四年制及辦學自主,於2006年經評審獲準正名為「樹仁大學」,也是唯一一所校監不是特首的大學。事實上,早年私立的崇基、新亞、聯合、浸會及嶺南皆因接受政府直接資助而被迫放棄追求成為私立大學的理想。這些院校有得有失已成為歷史,但也令香港私立大學發展長期停滯不前。

為擴大認可學士學額而不動用大幅額外公帑,港府於2009年起根據〈專上學院條例〉(即第320章),透過批地和免息貸款來鼓勵更多民間辦學團體開辦自資學士課程,扶助部分具潛質的「學院」日後申請正名為私立「大學」。非牟利私立自資院校的復興,打破了多年來香港學位教育由公營院校主導的單一局面。

質素保證與獨特貢獻

自2009年起陸續有珠海、恒管、東華、明愛、明德、港專、能仁及宏恩等8所私立院校按上述條例註冊成立(另外還有兩所公立自資院校,即公大及VTC高等教育科技學院)。他們以自資形式每年提供合共13000個政府認可學士學額,令本地總入學率升至近三成多,減輕了本土學生的升學壓力,和提升社會公平與流動性。

在香港,能夠入讀學士課程的學生,必須達到文憑試33222的最低成績要求(約佔35%考生)。這些私立院校的校園設施、師資、師生比例、課程、教學、財政穩建性、畢業生出路與質素保證機制均受香港學術及職業資歷評審局(HKCAAVQ)的嚴格評審及監察,因此質素及成果有一定保證。部分私立院校更已具備大學體系、規模和國際教研與管治水平,也有明確計劃和時間表,以申請正名為一所大學。

私立自資院校有更多的自主、靈活性和創新,更着重優質小班教學與學生個人發展,補充了公校在教育模式上的不足,令香港高教的長遠發展更為多元化、平衡與可持續。但它們也有其挑戰與困難,待下期討論。

(待續)

撰文:何順文
恒生管埋學院校長


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「狀元」學校新征途

信報財經新聞
銘想英國
2017-02-18

陳思銘

Cardiff Sixth Form College有「全英最有腦學校」之稱,其學術成績之優異可想而知。這間英國排名第一的A Level學校,校園任何風吹草動自然都會受到矚目,早在幾個月前,有關Cardiff Sixth Form College的各種謠言猜測已經甚囂塵上,預示有大件事即將發生,未幾馬上傳來大地震:學校創辦人Yasmin Sarwar離開自己一手一腳建立並創出驕人成績的學校。

轟動「分手」消息

Yasmin Sarwar與Cardiff Sixth Form College「分手」的消息,成為近日英國教育界最沸騰的話題。兩者各奔向怎樣的前程,亦是全國目光所向。據悉Yasmin Sarwar已投身Oxford International College,將會舉辦嶄新的世界課程,推動新的教育理念。

至於Cardiff Sixth Form College,校長一職由Gareth Collier出任,學校並且將由Duke’s Education所收購。有問Duke’s Education何方神聖也?這個教育機構成立於1999年,本身有涉足出版界,不少人曾聞Duke’s Education之名,都是多得他們出版過的一本著名攻考牛津劍橋的攻略書籍So you want to go Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana…。事實上對於事業路迷惘的學生來說,Duke’s Education的存在有如黑暗中的明燈,在協助學生升學及就業發展上,有着出色的表現及豐富的經驗。近年來為各大小學校舉辦過升學及職業訓練講座、工作坊無數,也把好些學校外判出去的職業發展部門辦得有聲有色。集團近年銳意辦學,Cardiff Sixth Form College之前,被收歸旗下的學校已有3間,分別是位於倫敦北部的Fine Arts College;位於倫敦西部,專攻醫療科學科目的Acorn College;以及在Kent的Rochester Independent College。可以想像,能夠接手這間位於威爾斯首都的英國頂級名校,這企業集團當然也絕非泛泛之輩。

Cardiff Sixth Form College現有如此具規模及經驗的集團作後盾,加上企業化管理、新的資金和更充裕資源的情況下,會有一番什麼景象,大家都急不及待想知道。許多家長學生尤其關注的是,當學校走出Yasmin Sarwar所創造的神話,走向集團企業化,其學術上的佳績是否能夠保持?為了釐清各方疑惑,新校長Gareth Collier真的不遺餘力,更會親臨香港,講解學校變天後的最新情況,解答家長和學生的問題。

然而,大地震才剛震完,許多都仍是未知之數。想真正了解Cardiff Sixth Form College的何去何從,大家還是得耐心拭目以待它今後的表現。