THE government forecast of a growth trend of 3.5 per cent in the next five years is neither overly optimistic nor pessimistic, says Treasury Secretary Denise Yue Chung-yee. Defending criticism that the latest projection was unrealistic, Ms Yue said government economists would never manipulate figures to keep it in line with government spending. 'Our spirit of professionalism does not allow us to do so,' she told a Commercial Radio programme. Ms Yue pointed out that Hong Kong had recorded an impressive growth of an average of more than five per cent over the past decade despite a sharp plunge to a minus five per cent growth in the current financial year. 'By putting Medium Range Forecast (MRF) at 3.5 per cent, we do not think it's either too optimistic or pessimistic. 'Our previous MRF is five per cent. Compared with 3.5 per cent, it already represents a 30 per cent drop. It's a huge adjustment.' Ms Yue said that although there were downside factors such as uncertainty of the Japanese economy, the development of the two important economies - China and the United States - was positive. She said government spending would have to be cut back if economic growth in the next few years was lower than 3.5 per cent. Ms Yue revealed that the Financial Secretary would 'have something to say' on plans to enhance productivity in government departments so there would be better and more services with the existing resources. The Government is hoping to gradually reduce the percentage of government spending to gross domestic product, so it would be kept within 20 per cent by 2002. The 1999-2000 estimates show the percentage has gone beyond 20 per cent. 'It's not the Government but the private sector which creates wealth. If the Government does more, it will adversely affect the private sector,' she said. Ms Yue said the Government's strategy was in line with the Basic Law, which only required a balanced spending policy over a period of time. 'We have no contacts whatsoever with the mainland authorities on our Budget.' The treasury chief, meanwhile, played down the immediate financial implications of the influx of mainland children entitled to right of abode under the Court of Final Appeal ruling. 'I'm not too worried about [the implications] in the 1999-2000 Budget. It's more a question for the years beyond 2000 when we have all the figures available. 'We will also have a clear set of procedure and arrangements for these people to come to Hong Kong. We can then work out plans on how to provide resources accordingly,' she said.