Sir John Cowperthwaite 1915-2006 Sir John Cowperthwaite, the former financial secretary credited with launching Hong Kong's economic success by introducing laissez-faire government, has died in Scotland. Sir John, 90, who served as financial secretary for 10 years until 1971, died at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee on Saturday. He is survived by his wife, Sheila. The couple's only child, Hamish, was murdered in the Philippines last year. Sir David Akers-Jones, the former chief secretary who worked with Sir John for many years, last night described him as a towering figure in the administration. 'He was a mixture of friendliness and austerity, a wonderful mixture,' he said. 'He was quite a hard taskmaster and always asked very penetrating questions. He did not like shoddy work. He also had a friendly side and had very many friends in the community.' He said Sir John had very strong ideas on allowing market forces to have their play. 'I think he laid the foundation for the prosperity Hong Kong has today,' Sir David said. Sir John and his wife lived in St Andrews in Scotland, but returned to Hong Kong frequently to visit their son, who worked as an architect in the city. Hamish Cowperthwaite was stabbed to death along with two other Hong Kong residents and a Filipino woman on the island of Boracay in the Philippines in May 2004. A German man was arrested in connection with the murders but failed to answer bail. After becoming financial secretary in 1961, Sir John set about revamping the economy with such bold moves as abandoning import and export duties and bringing in a flat tax on profits. Among the initiatives was the abolition in his 1970 budget of what was considered the territory's oddest tax - on women who made a living as professional dance partners. The levy was on a per-dance basis. Historian Dan Waters, 85, said: 'I always considered him one of the great financial secretaries. We have had a few, but he is the one that stands out in my mind.' In an interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review in the 1990s, Sir John explained his philosophy, saying: 'I did very little. All I did was try to prevent some of the things that might undo it.' When critics suggested that he collect and publish more economic statistics to back up his initiatives, he reputedly said: 'Oh, we can't do that. If we did, people would only try to use those statistics and where would we be then?' Sir John came to Hong Kong in 1945. He received his knighthood in 1968. His funeral will be held in Dundee on Saturday.