It's the best of times; it's the worst of times. Well, let's face it, it was the worst of times for Beijing to reassume possession of Hong Kong in July, 1997, because the market was at an all-time high - it had nowhere to go but down. The opposite are true for Macau. Public confidence and the market is so low that, apart from other factors such as Macau's long-standing 'patriotism', most Macau residents are looking forward to the handover. Sources close to the Macau policy establishment in Beijing also said the leadership was confident. Simply because things simply cannot get any worse from this point - they can only go up. Similar metaphysics are at play in choosing the time for the entry of the 1,000-odd PLA soldiers into Macau. For Hong Kong, it was about 5am on July 1, when the much-feared, if not hated, PLA got into town under the cover of night. But it will be high noon on the 20th, when the soldiers march into the former Portuguese colony. And dozens of social and neighbourhood organisations in Macau have already planned an elaborate welcoming ceremony - with patriotic-looking people waving flags on both sides of the street. Not much room for doubt over the protection given to the national flag now that the Court of Final Appeal has given such a comprehensive explanation of its sanctity. In its summary, the court decreed that it could even constitute an offence to write something highly complimentary on the national flag. 'Long live the glorious motherland' would apparently be just as much of an incitement to social instability and the overthrow of the Government as cutting a chunk out of the middle. Patriots please note! Meantime, if the Government is truly serious about restoring confidence in Hong Kong's judicial independence, it could begin the exercise in some of the higher echelons of society, legal circles included, where a rumour currently in circulation claims that President Jiang Zemin personally telephoned Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang to impress on him the importance of ruling in favour of the Government over the Right of Abode and flag cases. Possibly Mr Justice Li's extensive quotations from such arcane sources as a communist document dating back to 1949 helped to fuel this bizarre tale, but when speculation reaches these levels, it is not just reassurance about freedom of expression that the public needs. How about trying to cure the mounting paranoia? Scores of mainland reporters have been arriving in Macau to cover the handover ceremony on Sunday, but witnessing history doesn't seem to have been uppermost in their minds. In fact they are becoming something of a tourist attraction, as they form long queues outside the pawn shop adjacent to the Lisboa hotel and casino. It is not that the journalists are having a problem matching mainland salaries with Macau living standards. They're lining up to buy the Rolex watches that luckless gamblers have had to hock after they lost their shirts at the gambling tables. Apparently the press corps are haggling with the pawn shop people to pick up the bargains. Now there's a helpful lesson on profit and loss for the less fortunate high-rollers. Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Michael Suen Ming-yeung made known his personal support for a ministerial system of government. Amid widespread speculation that Secretary for Financial Affairs Rafael Hui Si-yan and Secretary for Broadcasting and IT Kwong Ki-chi would join the business sector, Mr Suen said on Wednesday that he would be willing to accept a ministerial portfolio if the Government gave him a golden handshake.