AT the age of 121, the world's oldest person, Madame Jeanne Calment, of the Maison du Lac retirement home in southern France, must be wondering what the world is coming to. Across the English Channel Prime Minister John Major's political dexterity - in the face of the 'defection' of another Tory MP, the return of Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombings in London after a fragile peace, and the potentially devastating Scott Report on arms sales to Iraq - is uncanny. Although the Tories survived the debate over the Scott Report by the slimmest margin of just one vote, his problems will not go away. Concerns over parliamentary ethics have also haunted the Tories and may well affect the next general election. Mr Major has survived this far and I believe he will remain in office long enough to carefully select the best time to give the Conservative Party a chance of winning the next election. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Republican primaries have begun with Pat Buchanan taking a narrow early lead. President Clinton, I suspect, is not entirely unhappy about the Republican presidential candidates constantly bashing each other. Closer to Hong Kong, the Taiwan presidential election on March 23 will probably see a victory for incumbent Lee Teng-hui. But what that will do for China and Taiwan's relationship is a different matter. The existing climate is not conducive to improving relations between China and Britain, nor between China and the United States. These poor ties could have a bad effect on issues that concern Hong Kong, including the renewal of China's Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status. It does not bode well for the territory. Next week sees Mr Major's visit to Hong Kong and Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's Budget for 1996/97. As this is Mr Tsang's first Budget, there will be a great deal of interest in what he puts forward. As for Mr Major, why is he coming and what does he hope to achieve? The cynics will say he will achieve nothing. Perhaps his visit is intended to calm Hong Kong people's fears and impress the Chinese Government. Perhaps we have been asking for the impossible and should ask for what is realistically feasible. At the top of my list is this request: allow us to do things for ourselves. It is ironic that Britain tells us the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law will give us a high degree of autonomy with Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong, yet Britain does not give that autonomy now. The Financial Secretary's Budget will be another safe one, with the usual caveats as to why the Hong Kong Government must be cautious with its expenditure. Mr Tsang will probably cite the uncertainty over Taiwan, MFN and the 1997 transition as reasons for proceeding cautiously. He will also be quietly confident about the economy, unemployment and inflation. He is likely to give something to everyone to ensure his Budget is accepted. Before rising to the top post, Mr Tsang, then Secretary for the Treasury, and former Financial Secretary Sir Hamish Macleod started consulting with the Legislative Council over the Budget and wrote to political parties about which of their wishes had been granted. Mr Tsang will continue to do the same, perhaps on a larger scale. But whatever happens he will be remembered for his penchant for using film titles as the theme for his speeches. Remember the Silence of the Lambs? I don't think he will use a movie title for his maiden Budget, although that old tear-jerker All Mine to Give might be appropriate.