ECONOMIC growth will slow down next year, according to Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, but he is confident the economy remains in good shape. Speaking to Commercial Radio yesterday, Mr Tsang estimated 1996 growth would be between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent, compared with last year's Gross Domestic Product figure of 5.5 per cent. The Government, which originally forecast the same 5.5 per cent of growth in 1995, earlier revised it down to five per cent. But Mr Tsang said no one should be expecting growth of six to seven per cent. In the past few years the economy had developed a certain level of maturity, and this would continue next year with solid, but not, exceptional growth, he explained. Nonetheless, Mr Tsang remained optimistic about overall economic performance in view of the territory's strong fundamental elements, such as strong trade and healthy reserves as well as the huge nearby mainland market. He anticipated inflation would go down. The downside was that unemployment would continue to run at about its current level of 3.6 per cent for some time, he said. Although there had been good expansion of the economy, the corresponding increase in manpower supply made it difficult to satisfy the growing demand for jobs. However, he refused to say whether tax cuts would be used to help tackle the unemployment problem. The most important thing, said Mr Tsang, was to ensure there was stable economic development. Another uncertainty causing concern about the year ahead was the rate of emigration. There had been a steady rise in the number of people looking to move abroad and 'the situation for 1996 is very unclear because we do not know what the exodus will be', he said. He described his debut budget, due in March, as 'challenging' because of the need to provide more employment opportunities for those affected by the slowing economy. 'Now that the economy has slowed down, we have to be extremely careful about the Budget. 'We have to study how to take care of those whose livelihood are adversely affected as a result of the economic down-turn. 'Foreign investors are also more sensitive about next year's Budget because of the 1997 factor,' he said. Meanwhile, the director of the Hong Kong branch of Xinhua (the New China News Agency) Zhou Nan said in his New Year message although the territory suffered 'temporary difficulty' in its economy this year he was confident this would be overcome in 1996.