The economy would recover three months after the United States started to improve, Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said yesterday on the eve of the release of the latest financial figures. Gross domestic product figures for July to September, likely to be negative, and the revised growth forecast for the year will be made public today. The annual GDP growth forecast for this year was cut from three per cent to one per cent in late August. Delivering a speech at a luncheon hosted by the Asia Society, Mr Tsang was asked by property tycoon Alan Zeman when the economy would recover. Mr Tsang, formerly the financial secretary, said the SAR would rebound one quarter after the US economy started to improve. He agreed with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's assessment that the hard times would continue into next year. 'But we will be very hot on the heels of any recovery that is going to take place,' he said. 'If you are able to tell me when the US economy will turnaround, I will say add one quarter to it and Hong Kong will be there.' Mr Tung has warned that GDP growth for the coming few quarters will be negative. Mr Tsang also noted that with the unemployment rate standing at 5.5 per cent, the Government would make sure job opportunities for local people would not be affected when considering more ways to utilise skills from overseas or the mainland. He said there had not been enough channels to tap the talent, but the Government would remain open to ideas. The admission of a mainland professionals scheme, announced in his last budget when he was still financial chief in March and launched four months ago, would be reviewed in the next two months. Mr Tsang said Hong Kong still had its strengths, which were a diligent workforce and pragmatic, highly adaptable people. He gave the example of taxis becoming cleaner, drivers friendlier and shop assistants more courteous in a bid to attract customers during the economic slump. 'But they still scream, they still complain, they still criticise us. But this is the real Hong Kong,' Mr Tsang said. He said it made no sense to wear rose-coloured glasses during the tough times, and even less sense to descend into despair. 'The worst thing we can do is lose our self-confidence,' he said, adding that Asia was still the world's fastest-growing region and Hong Kong had always been a major international city.