The road to insolvency is paved with good intentions. But, if the company happens to be 48 per cent Government-owned, official intercession can delay the time of arrival, without any perceptible change of pace or direction by the traveller. The Tradelink project was certainly a good idea, put forward by well-intentioned businessmen and politicians. Any system which allows businesses to apply for textile export licences, trade declarations and other government paperwork from their own computer terminals should be a welcome productivity booster in the commercial sector. It ought to be welcomed for the same reason in government, itself. In theory, at least, Tradelink should save thousands of man-hours now wasted in filling out forms, queueing at government counters and endlessly filing and shuffling papers. However, bureaucracies do not function on the same logic as the private sector. Saving resources which could be more productively used elsewhere may be of little or no interest to some civil service managers whose importance and status is measured in the number of pen-pushers and paper-shufflers in their empires. If there is a flaw in the Tradelink project, it is that it manages resources which the project's opponents have a vested interest in wasting. The whole exercise will fail unless the bureaucracy is given a firm deadline for phasing out old paperwork and inefficiencies, and Tradelink is set and spending limits to get up and running. Tradelink deserved to do well. But, having been allowed run up a $162 million deficit without producing the goods, it should be shut down or come under much firmer control. A management change is under way, with the installation of the Trade and Industry Secretary, Denise Yue Chung-yee, as chairwoman. The Director of Trade is joining the board and a shake-up of the executive team is in progress. All involved will have to work hard and fast to make a difference. It is remarkable that legislators have been persuaded to bail Tradelink out with a $425 million convertible bond, without demanding any additional monitoring or controls over the way the money is spent. At the very least, a part of the sum demanded should have been held back to force the Government to return in a few months' time with real improvements to justify further funding. The sooner the system is up and running free from bureaucratic rules which prevent it competing effectively with paper-shufflers, the sooner it will be able to help Hong Kong reinforce its place among the most efficient traders in the world.