HO CHEUK-FAI WAS among the first generation of Hong Kong industrialists, starting his working life at the tender age of 12. He created his own business at 16, establishing a plastic moulding company. Unfortunately, the company closed down after a year due to lack of capital. By 1980, Mr Ho had set up the Karrie Group, which later was listed on Hong Kong's main board and renamed Karrie International Holdings - a manufacturer of computer and server casings and office automation products. Over the past 45 years, Karrie's chairman has experienced the ups and downs of the local economy. Now, Mr Ho blames the British for the current financial crisis and told The Informer it was too late to rejuvenate the economy. Q: What is the problem with the economy? A: In the early days, the British Hong Kong government adopted a non-intervention policy and did not give any support to small and medium-sized enterprises. They were proud of the policy, saying that it was the key to Hong Kong's success. In fact, it dealt a blow to the economy. The policy forced Hong Kong industrialists to move their production bases to the Pearl River Delta region, where there were lower operating costs. As a result, Hong Kong has lost its manufacturing - a pillar of the economy. Q: Do you think the former government should be blamed for the economic downturn? And what is the outlook? A: Yes. But it is too late to find a remedy. Too much time has passed. Now, it is difficult to ask industrialists to come back. I am very pessimistic about Hong Kong's economy. I have never, ever believed that property speculation can sustain a city's economic growth. Q: Did you invest in local property in the booming 1990s? A: For investment, no. I have a property for my own use. In 1998, I tried to invest in Hong Kong's luxury market with the purchase of a house in Kowloon Tong. However, one day after I paid the deposit, a newspaper said I was a fool as I had agreed to pay a 40 per cent premium on the market price. I cancelled the deal the next day. Q: What did you learn from the 1997 economic crisis? A: That was a terrible experience. Banks suddenly changed their policies and cut credit lines. I was being asked by 17 banks to repay loans on one day. I remember a staff member from a foreign bank - to whom we had given millions of dollars in loan business - said I deliberately avoided them when it came to repaying money. Why? Just because I had not filled in a form and replied to them immediately. Another example was HSBC. We owed them HK$10 million and repaid them HK$3 million, leaving HK$7 million unsettled. HSBC confiscated HK$4 million on deposit, which was originally planned for our employees' salaries. The experience told me that we should operate business in a very prudent way. Q: Karrie still chooses HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank as key creditors. Why? A: I was persuaded by the new management, who reckoned we should rely on large banks for business expansion. Recently, I was invited by the senior management of HSBC for lunch. Q: You have already begun shifting responsibilities to your managers. Is that because of your views on corporate management? A: Because of my education, it is difficult to lead the group to a higher level. The new management team joined the company after the regional crisis. They did a good job, taking into account our financial results in the past three years. One more reason is that I do not want to take any telephone calls at midnight. So I just let them deal with international customers. Q: Why? A: I had a bad experience. At midnight many years ago, I received an overseas call telling me bad news about my elder brother. Since then, I do not allow anyone to call me during that time. Q: What are your new duties? A: I mainly build up business relations with mainland authorities. Q: Do you think you are successful? A: Yes. I am successful, taking into account my education level. I was just a primary student. Q: Do you have any regrets? A: Yes. I think it may be not giving enough time to my family. I guess they will blame me in future. Q: Do you want your children to succeed you? A: It's too early to think about it. They are too young. Q: What is your main ambition? A: I want to be recognised in an industry in which I have no experience. For example, I personally started investing in the mainland property market. I am a newcomer in this field, but I hope one day mainland property developers will recognise my achievement.