Sir John Cowperthwaite was a civil servant whose laissez-faire approach to business created Hong Kong’s dynamic economy from the 1960s onwards. Had he lived, he would have surely endorsed the policies of UKIP. Should Britain follow his policies then the UK could once again see an economic revival, where manufacturing could once again provide the people with increased prosperity for all.
Between 1841, when Lord Palmerston thundered that this “barren rock” would “never become a mart of trade” and its return to China in 1997, Hong Kong grew at its most frenetic pace under Cowperthwaite, resulting in a per-capita income more than a third greater than that enjoyed by Britain.
John James Cowperthwaite was educated at Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, then took a first in classics at St Andrews University. He followed this with a double-first in classics at Christ’s College, Cambridge, before returning to St Andrews to study economics. He was greatly influenced by the economist Professor Wilkie Nisbet, a staunch free-trader.
Cowperthwaite did away with all import and export duties, put a flat tax on profits and set the ceiling on income tax at 15 per cent. The personal allowance for each citizen was high enough to enable many to pay no tax at all. He swept away many of the curious idiosyncrasies of colonial administration.
(excerpts from the Times Obituary Column © Times Newspapers Ltd)
Sir John Cowperthwaite, KBE, CMG, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong, 1961-71, was born in Edinburgh on April 25, 1915. He died at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee on January 21, 2006, aged 90. Let us follow his financial acumen in the Britain of today.