Sir John Cowperthwaite

Wed 20th July 2016 at 13.50 - 14.00

Duncan Pickard from Howe of Fife Rotary Club tells us of the impact Sir John Cowperthwaite had on Hong Kong.

Duncan Pickard from Howe of Fife Rotary Club gave a talk to the Rotary Club of St Andrews about the impact that Sir John Cowperthwaite had on Hong Kong. He was born in 1915 in Edinburgh and joined the Colonial Administration Service in Hong Kong in 1941. He was proclaimed ‘Man of the Century for Southeast Asia’ because of the example for economic success he provided for Hong Kong and other countries. He was fortunate when he became Financial Secretary that a fiscal system was in place which allowed working people to keep almost all of the money they earned and the funds   for the Hong Kong government’s necessary functions was obtained by the collection of annual ground rent. Cowperthwaite based his economic policy on Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations’ He refused to impose tariffs or give subsidies and did not allow the government to go into debt. Despite a large influx of refugees from communist China, during his 10 years in charge, real wages increased by 50%. Almost all government revenue was obtained from selling leases for the use of land the value of which increased as prosperity and the demand for land increased. There was no need to impose taxes on earnings or trade because the income from leases was buoyant.  

We were told that Hong Kong’s economic system is worthy of study as despite its lack of natural resources compared to Scotland, Hong Kong has less than half the rate of unemployment, a significantly higher average age at death, total government spending which is less than half of ours with no government debt and a population of 2 million more people.

Arthur Griffiths gave the vote of thanks and thanked the speaker for a most thought provoking talk.