Every October, the Chief Executive goes to the Legislative Council to outline the administration's objectives for the coming year. In more settled times, it was an important exercise. But in an era of overnight change, faster responses and greater flexibility, the process has outlived its usefulness. It continues as a tradition, symbolic but ultimately restricting. The housing policy debacles since 1997 are a graphic example of how things can fall apart despite well-laid plans and good intentions. Prediction is an inexact science. Never more than now, with the United States waging war against terrorism and the entire world gripped by anxiety. Hong Kong, as a major financial centre, is closely affected by events in Afghanistan. But for months before that, its slow emergence from the Asian financial crisis was being crushed by economic reversals in the US. To be knocked back on to the canvas just when the city was struggling to its feet is particularly hard. That is why some of the community's legendary vitality has waned. But the gloom in the streets far outweighs the size of the problem, and it is not all attributable to negative equity. If Tung Chee-hwa can do something to relieve the plight of householders struggling to repay mortgages at rates far in excess of the present ones, he will help to lighten the mood among the middle classes. It was his Government, after all, that encouraged people into home ownership. They are not entirely unjustified in expecting it to offer aid in their present troubles, though it should be restricted to family homes. But Mr Tung has to do something far more significant if he stands for a second term. And it does not rest upon reviving the property market. He has to rekindle confidence in his administration, and convince the public that the city is in the right hands. If he can do it - and his past record is little asset - he will be able to reverse the negativity that leads people to believe the economy is in a pit from which it cannot escape. Mr Tung came to power without political experience and with rigid ideas of how the leader of China's first SAR should behave. In the past year or so, he has tried to become a better communicator and to show he is aware of the concerns of the man and woman in the street. He has listened and sought answers. Today, we will see whether from that wealth of information he has mapped out a clear and confident strategy for the foreseeable future.