Donald Tsang

Let business take its natural course, Mr Tsang

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 April, 2006, 12:00am

The public witnessed the two contrasting faces of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen last week.

Speaking softly, the chief executive sounded like an ordinary person sharing his insights on life when he revealed his love of birdwatching while speaking on RTHK's Letter to Hong Kong programme.

'Watching birds also helps us realise that nature acts as a good balance to human life,' he said.

'If you want to get close to nature, you must respect its laws.

'Whatever your station in life, you cannot control the movement of birds in the wild. All you can do is wait quietly with your binoculars to catch a closer glimpse.

'While watching birds, you learn to exercise restraint, patience and concentration.'

But days later, Mr Tsang was back to his fiery style. Speaking at a Hong Kong Association of Banks luncheon, he gave a not-so-gentle rebuke to bankers over their failure to act swiftly after the People's Bank of China announced new banking business opportunities in the Easter holidays.

'Where were you during the last Easter weekend? I suppose some were playing golf in the Pearl River Delta ... where were you guys? You should have been working on the Easter weekend ... knocking on the door of [PBOC governor] Zhou Xiaochuan .'

While different in tone and mood, Mr Tsang has expressed a similar sense of unease over two other important issues close to his heart.

In raising public awareness over the threat of bird flu, he also lamented the damage to nature since the Industrial Revolution. 'Mother nature is apparently taking revenge ... we need to maintain harmony and balance with nature,' he said.

Harmony between humankind and nature has been a constant theme in Mr Tsang's action plan on livelihood improvement.

He pledged the utmost efforts would be taken to ensure public hygiene and food safety and to improve the environment.

At a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Council last month, he sought to instil a sense of crisis over environmental degradation. He stated grimly that 'Hong Kong is seeing fewer days of blue sky.'

Mr Tsang was ostensibly driven by the same measure of crisis on the city's long-term economic viability as he delivered a blunt warning to bankers.

Amid fears that Hong Kong could become marginalised as the mainland economy flourishes, he was keen to warn bankers and the business community that they must act before it is too late.

And he has practised what he preached. Mr Tsang has laid down plans to visit all provinces under the 'nine-plus-two' regional economic co-operation framework this year.

If he has run out of patience with the bankers, it is perhaps because he is adamant the government has already played its part. Now it is time for entrepreneurs to do their job to make the best of the new opportunities.

But in doing so, Mr Tsang, a self-proclaimed believer in market forces, seems to have forgotten the lessons of birdwatching. Just as you cannot control the movement of birds in the wild, bankers and entrepreneurs are never driven by state fiats, but by global market forces to go where they can make money.

The government need not worry about the lack of initiative and drive of businesspeople.

Mr Tsang has learned from birdwatching that for our avian friends to flourish they need a conducive environment.

Clean water, fresh air and green surrounds are the basics needed for a harmonious relationship between man and nature.

Applying the same theory to the world of business, the government has a legitimate role to play in lobbying Beijing for more opportunities for local companies. But as soon as the market has been opened up, the rules of the game clearly spelled out and a sound business environment created, the government should feel self-assured and relaxed enough to let the market-conscious entrepreneurs give full play to their talents and skills.