Any objective observer of the Hong Kong scene since the Asian financial crisis would agree that the gloom in the streets outweighs the reality of the economic situation. Times have been tough since then, as Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen freely admitted in his speech to the American Chamber of Commerce yesterday. One financial downturn following fast on the heels of another has left people dispirited. At the start of the year, we seemed to be turning the corner. Then America's difficulties pushed the SAR back into the doldrums, extending joblessness for blue-collar workers and professionals, and hitting the middle class with a ferocity it had never before experienced. Suddenly all local pride in self-sufficiency crumbled, and people who have always recoiled at the idea of social welfare are clamouring for government handouts they once looked down upon. Fear of unemployment haunts every sector. Part of Mr Tsang's job is to talk up the economy and the administration's performance. He does so convincingly, pointing out the US$64 billion (HK$500 billion) in foreign investment last year, and the 3,000 regional headquarters established here. But it is pointless to deny the misjudgments that have shaken the electorate's confidence. No matter how much officials talk up the CyberPort, it remains a fact that information technology does not need grandiose building schemes to flourish. The bull points - as Mr Tsang calls them - spring from strengths Hong Kong has always had, prudent fiscal policy being foremost among them. A lifeline has been handed to people suffering from negative equity. They no longer need to be stuck with mortgages at prime rates and while property prices must never spiral out of control again, they will make up lost ground when the economy improves. Until then, people should focus on their own and the city's strengths. Negative thinking drives the economy downward. Mr Tsang points to an expansionist economy, rather than one which is contracting. These are hard times, certainly, but less self-pity and more confidence will help to see us through.