HONG KONG has never followed a 'grand vision' in its economic development. Unlike other Asian tigers, it pursued a thoroughly non-interventionist path to prosperity. No one encouraged local manufacturers to relocate en masse across the border. They recognised the economic advantages and acted by themselves. The territory's transformation into a service-based economy was achieved so independently of government that it has taken the administration nearly a decade to wake up to what has occurred. But the hands-off approach that was so successful during Hong Kong's developing phase is no longer enough in the era of a more mature economy, facing increasing competition from other regional centres. For years there have been complaints the departing colonial administration lacked the long-term vision needed to ensure Hong Kong continues to prosper into the next century. Now the first local Financial Secretary, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, has tried to plug this gap with a new-found emphasis on promoting the services sector. Yesterday he extended this to embrace a grand vision of local service providers radiating outwards to dominate less developed markets throughout Asia. It is a vision which so far amounts more to rhetoric than substance. The Action Agendas, in last week's budget, contained little more than re-packaged old initiatives. But that may be due to the Government's anxiety to avoid veering to the opposite extreme and adopting too interventionist an approach to services promotion. The real value of Mr Tsang's initiative is that it will force civil servants to tackle such issues with more enthusiasm. In any case, the task of fleshing out the details of Mr Tsang's vision are beginning to be tackled by the Trade Development Council under its energetic new Executive Director, Michael Sze Cho-cheung. Their three-pronged approach for tackling Western, Asian and mainland markets deserves support. A delicate balancing act has to be performed. A more mature economy may have to modify the non-interventionist approach that served Hong Kong so well in the past. But nothing which is done to promote the territory's services should be allowed to interfere with the basic principle that it is for business, rather than government, to determine the future direction of the economy.