Monday, September 11, 2006

Read My Lips

Today's SCMP reported "Donald Tsang Yam-kuen yesterday declared the end of "positive non- intervention", a policy that has previously been hailed as a pillar of Hong Kong's economic success...."Everybody says Hong Kong has a `positive non-intervention policy'. The policy was put forward a long time ago by a financial secretary, Sir Philip Haddon-Cave."

The story continued,"All along, we have never said we'd made it a blueprint for our economic development," Mr Tsang said in response to a question on whether the administration had adjusted the policy."What we have done in practice - and if you remember the direction outlined by former financial secretaries - is adhere to the principles of `big market, small government'. The government will try our best to meet the market's needs." Asked why the policy was still taught in schools, Mr Tsang said: "They teach it wrong." " Read the story here.

Oh really?

Here is Donald Tsang again in his 2000 budget speech (paragraphs 17-19):

"Market-led means that Government does not seek to direct or plan the course that our economy or markets should take. Instead, we believe that investors and entrepreneurs understand markets far better than officials and that private initiatives are a surer way to build Hong Kong's prosperity than any bureaucrat's blueprints.

Our economy has transformed itself several times over the last 50 years. Every time one door closed, a new one opened leading to bigger and better opportunities. Through their own initiatives, our talented and hard-working people have managed to create these new opportunities for growth. The Government has had the good sense not to try to usurp the business sector's role, nor to seek to direct economic developments. Instead, it has confined itself to creating the conditions that allow individuals and businesses to flourish. We started out as a modest trading port, which our people then transformed into a manufacturing centre. They developed global trading links. They ventured into the Mainland. They built Hong Kong into a world-class financial centre. And now, again driven by market forces, they are seizing new opportunities in cyberspace.

None of these successful transformations was the result of government planning or directing the economy. This lesson from the past must be the guiding principle for anyone entrusted with the management of Hong Kong's economic affairs."

Hat tip to Wai-hong Yeung at the Next Media for reminding me of these passages during our conversation.

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