The outgoing president of Polytechnic University says the city is suffering because government officials working under the 'accountability system' are too cautious and might have stymied well-intentioned projects. 'The political climate is different now,' said Poon Chung-kwong. 'Government officials in the past were bolder in decision-making ... thinking that no mistakes will be committed if you do nothing, the current government tends to be more prudent.' Professor Poon recalled the debacle over the proposed merger between Chinese University and the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) to prove his point. '[Former education secretaries] Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun had good intentions. The merger could have benefited both universities in terms of student admission. But the results, with Mrs Law's resignation, were disheartening.' When he was education minister Professor Li was accused of putting pressure on the HKIEd president to merge with Chinese University. Mrs Law, former permanent secretary, was said to have asked the president to curb two academics who were critical of education policy. Professor Poon was sharing his thoughts about politics and education yesterday as he unveiled a book about his four decades in higher education ahead of his retirement at the end of the month. Having served the university for 18 years, Professor Poon, 68, a devout Buddhist, said he would spend more time helping poor university students on the mainland and promoting traditional Chinese values. 'I will concentrate more on the work of my charity foundation, the Virya Foundation, which was set up by me and my wife four years ago. Because of the extensive network I built up with the business sector when I served in Legco [in the 1980s], I have so far raised HK$20 million, which will go towards subsidising the university education of poor mainland students.' He has also promised to serve as a college head at Xian Jiaotong University, in Shaanxi . 'University students nowadays are much smarter than my generation because of the easy access to information, but the hard power of knowledge has yet to be matched by equally strong values and ethics,' Professor Poon said. 'Being extremely smart, investment bankers came up with convoluted systems of derivatives to earn as much money as they could. But their greed doomed them. That's why I always tell young people about Confucianism, Taoism and the Buddhist philosophy of comeuppance.'