Depending on one's view of the proper role of government, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa is either doing too much or too little to relieve the plight of the masses during the worst recession in years. For those who believe in small government, he should be condemned for dipping into the reserves to create jobs of dubious economic value, fund rates rebates when the budget deficit is growing and subsidise selected businesses. But others who feel governments should try to lead the way and ease people's pain by putting money into their pockets will regard the relief measures he announced in his fifth Policy Address as inadequate to deal with the gravity of the situation. The Chief Executive is apparently torn between the two views. While he vowed to maintain small government, he only meant by that to keep the bureaucracy lean and efficient. In practice, under intense political pressure to soothe the people's plight, he is handing out money almost indiscriminately. Whereas his address last year created 15,000 posts, the figure for this year has doubled. Until recent years, job creation was usually not featured in policy addresses. But then the situation this year has clearly worsened beyond expectation. In his last address, Mr Tung confidently said: 'Next year will be a better year. The outlook is certainly optimistic.' Yesterday, Mr Tung asked the public to brace for further turbulence, warning that 'Hong Kong faces an accelerated economic downturn, a rise in unemployment, an increase in the fiscal deficit and a delayed recovery'. Indeed, instead of trying to talk up the economy as they had been doing for three years, Mr Tung and his senior colleagues have recently changed to say that it would take time before light appears at the end of a rather long tunnel. For not only is Hong Kong facing difficulties caused by a global slowdown, but the economy is also undergoing structural changes that require a massive upgrading of the skills of the workforce. That upgrade can only be achieved through education, which remains Mr Tung's top priority. Rounding up, the Chief Executive appealed to the public to muster the courage to take up new challenges, advising teachers, parents and students to embrace self-improvement through life-long learning and acquiring new skills. Overall, one could detect a subtle change in Mr Tung's style. In his first address, he laid out an ambitious blueprint to solve the top three concerns - housing, the elderly and education. Four years and various blunders later, he appears to have realised the limitations of government and has subtly changed to advising people to help themselves. Clearly the public wants compassion from the Government, and there will be people who feel Mr Tung's fiscal largesse is inadequate. The Chief Executive has also tried to project leadership, but is hampered by his lack of charisma. His rhetoric may have resounded more fully had it been delivered with better oratorical skills. Hopefully, Mr Tung will find more publicly spirited men and women to join him in his expected second term to make up for his deficiencies. The ministerial system he unveiled will change the shape of government dramatically, putting an end to the dual role of minister-cum-departmental administrators played by the policy secretaries. It will be an improvement to the present system, but the fundamental discord between the administration and the legislature will not be solved until the Chief Executive is elected by universal suffrage.