IT is January 3. You have already read all the retrospectives of 1998 you can stomach. You have probably also read enough forecasts for 1999 to last you well into next week, by which time they will already be starting to show serious signs of inaccuracy. Worse, you have been subjected to predictions for the millennium and beyond. So, when the world does grind to a halt under the combined impact of the Y2K bug, global warming and the failure of the Colombian coca crop, you will be unable to get excited. You will, after all, have seen it all coming. That is why, here at Week Ending, we have decided to be honest with you. We have no idea what will really happen in 1999, let alone 2000. We can only offer you glimpses of a deeper reality. For instance, it is our firm belief that the coming year will be hotter than 1998, and the atmosphere will be redolent of diesel and French-fried potatoes. This has nothing to do with global warming, although the weathermen at the Hong Kong Observatory have announced 1998 was the warmest year since records began in 1884. We are talking here of the Hong Kong micro-climate and base ourselves strictly on local conditions. The heatwave will not be down to an overheated economy, hot money rushing into Hong Kong-based funds, or the warmth of our embrace of the motherland. However, we would like to put forward the theory that McDonald's, which for 28 days last Autumn slammed the chip-friers into overdrive to supply thousands of Snoopy collectors with Super-Value Meals, is corporately responsible for raising the average temperature and extending the steamy summer season well into October. If that is correct, 1999 is likely to be even hotter. We have absolute faith in McDonald's ability to come up with a still more successful marketing ploy sometime in the next 12 months. Turning to politics, we predict a period of peace and harmonious irrelevance in the Legislative Council between the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party. The real battles will be fought bloodily on the streets. The Young Turks, led by the not-so-young Lau Chin-shek and former student-radical Andrew To Kwan-hang, will rally and march against the bastions of commerce and lucre. Facing them will be the Business Barons, under the seasoned and battle-scarred generalship of Li Ka-shing. They will be forced to face the Young Turks at ground level, having failed to build pedestrian walkways, as promised. Abuse, threats and eventually worse will be hurled. A soothing statement will be issued by the Office of the Chief Executive reminding us that 'a harmonious community is fundamental to the creation of a good, attractive business environment'. Nobody will be listening. Towards the end of the year, the people will decide who will represent them in the new District Councils. The sun will shine, but the turnout will be abysmal, despite attractive Hello Kitty trinkets and discount offers from Giordano for anyone who bothers to cast a vote. The Young Turks, the Democratic Party elders, and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong will boycott the elections in protest at the abolition of the municipal councils, while the Liberal Party and the Business Barons will all take up appointed seats. With no serious competition, Jennifer Chow Kit-bing and her allies in the Filipinos for a Pay-Cut party will sweep the board, ushering in a new era of prosperity and racial harmony. The economy will get a boost when Hong Kong breaks the dollar peg without warning and pins its colours instead to the euro. China will follow suit, and eventually even Britain will be forced to join. In the longer term, we fear, the competition between the euro and the US dollar will lead to the outbreak of World War III and the annihilation of the human race. But do not be despondent. With the millennium bug sorted, computers will carry on without us. IN social and health policy, meanwhile, Hong Kong will take a leading international role. Comprehensive Social Security Assistance will be abolished, which will encourage the unemployed to start working for a living and the elderly to depart for the mainland. This will take the pressure off the Hospital Authority and the departments of health and welfare, giving them all more time to work out ways to institute new user-pays policies which will ultimately benefit society as a whole. The success of this experiment will be a beacon to the rest of the world, which will soon be sending all its elderly pensioners to join their Hong Kong counterparts in China or to any other developing country which will take them for a small disposal fee. The environment, meanwhile, will continue to deteriorate. The Government, having failed to persuade the transport industry to switch to liquefied petroleum gas or unleaded petrol and refused to offer concrete assistance to transport companies wishing to switch to trolley buses, will at last set an example by converting its vehicle fleet to pedal power. It will also re-introduce the rickshaw, providing work for the unemployed. You are strongly advised to take these predictions with a pinch of salt. Alternatively, you can see them as metaphors for universal truth. In that case, just remember: you read it here first. Happy New Year.