If there is one thing that is guaranteed to win both the public and business community's support, it is anything which looks as if it might revive the sagging property market. With hundreds of thousands of angry home-owners seeing the value of their flats eroded, and many now facing the trap of negative equity, it was scarcely surprising to see most legislators support the superficially attractive option of lifting the 70 per cent mortgage ceiling, in the hope this would help stabilise property prices. Even members of The Frontier, the pro-democracy group which normally has no truck with big business interests, were seduced by such an electorally-appealing idea. But the unusual combination of the Government and the Democratic Party deserve credit for refusing to take the politically-easy path of supporting this proposal, and instead putting the integrity of the economy ahead of considerations of electoral advantage. Amid the economic gloom, one of the few bright spots has been the resilience of the banking sector. Despite many months of losses, when interbank rates were higher than those they charged customers, and plunging property prices, which means many mortgages are higher than the assets they are supposedly secured on, there are few concerns about the stability of the local banking system. That is largely due to the mortgage ceiling, which acted as a vital restraint on the property exposure of local banks during the pre-handover price bubble. Nevertheless, international confidence in the banking sector has been hurt by Asia's financial crisis, with credit rating agencies already having downgraded many local banks. But it is easy to foresee the massive erosion of confidence which would occur were legislators to succeed in their efforts to place political considerations ahead of tight supervision of the banking system. Speculators might well use this as an excuse to launch a fresh attack on the Hong Kong dollar. Nor would relaxing the 70 per cent limit necessarily revive property prices. Many purchasers can already get higher mortgages through the top-up loans offered by big developers. But few are likely to buy so long as the economic situation remains so uncertain and unemployment continues to rise. Arguing about the mortgage ceiling is a distraction from the real issues Hong Kong is facing as it undergoes the pain of economic adjustment, and does not reflect creditably on most legislators.