SIR Hamish Macleod's performance as Financial Secretary has been given the thumbs-up by two-thirds of people polled as he prepares to deliver his final Budget speech on Wednesday. When 600 people were asked whether Sir Hamish had spent taxpayers' money wisely, 62.6 per cent said he had done so 'fairly wisely' and 4.1 per cent believed he had spent 'very wisely'. Some, however, were less complimentary about Sir Hamish's three-year stint in charge of the territory's purse strings. In a poll for the South China Morning Post by Asian Commercial Research (ACR) last week, 18.8 per cent said he had handled the territory's Budget 'not very wisely', while 14.5 said they had no opinion of his performance. But Sir Hamish still managed to beat his boss, Governor Chris Patten, in the popularity stakes, with Hong Kong's money man winning a 32 per cent overall approval rating. Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang held on to the title of most popular civil servant with an overall approval rating of 42 per cent, while the Governor trailed in third place with only 19 per cent. ACR managing director David Bottomley put Sir Hamish's popularity down to satisfaction with salary tax and the belief that he had generally spent wisely. Mr Bottomley added: 'Most people think salary tax in Hong Kong is reasonable and they don't feel they are being overtaxed.' More than half of those polled appeared to be comfortable with salary tax in Hong Kong, although 4.8 per cent said it was 'not high enough'. Of the 45 per cent of respondents who came up with areas in which they thought there had been unwise spending, no single area was mentioned by more than 9.3 per cent of people. Questioned about their personal standard of living and the economy in general, people under 45 thought their living standard had improved in the face of a worsening economy. But those in the 45-64 age group said their standard of living had deteriorated, while they believed the economy had suffered more than those under 45. Turning to Wednesday's Budget, more than 30 per cent of those polled put public housing, education or crime prevention in their top three priority areas for more spending. Cutting pollution came up in only 12.3 per cent of the three most important areas worthy of increased spending, while only 11.9 per cent of top-three lists included more spending on improving relations with China. Mr Bottomley said: 'People have very pragmatic and indeed cynical reasons for regarding some of these items as low priorities. 'They see no point in spending money on trying to improve relations with China or reduce pollution because they think government efforts in these directions have been ineffective and to spend more would be to throw good money after bad.'