LETTER : Drawing the wrong lessons from Asia's dynamic economies

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The Independent Online
From Mr John Perry

Sir: Rather than calling for a "shrinking state" on the basis of his experience of Hong Kong (25 October), Chris Patten might look more closely at the creative ways in which the public and private sector work together there.

For example, the Hong Kong housing authority is bigger than any municipal housing body in Britain and has a building programme of which London would be envious. Why? Because, although it is a public sector body, it can mobilise private funds in a way that would be ruled out in Britain by the stranglehold of the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement.

Hong Kong seems capable of distinguishing between social investment that produces revenue, such as housing and public transport, and investment that does not. It allows the parts of the public sector that can meet the costs of their own investment a good deal more freedom than does the Treasury in Britain.

On his return to the UK, Mr Patten could perhaps give Treasury officials a lecture about antiquated rules which mean that Britain's investment in key aspects of social infrastructure is behind that of Hong Kong and, incidentally, much of the rest of Europe.

Yours sincerely,

John Perry

Director of Policy

Chartered Institute of



26 October