It was not a budget. It was a prayer. 'Please, please, O ye powers that be,' said our Financial Secretary, 'could we get this economy ticking over again at a reasonable rate as then I will have a chance of making good on my pledge to restore a fiscal balance within five years.' And, presuming he gets a favourable answer, he forthwith presented a table showing a smooth improvement in the fiscal position back to balance within the requisite period. Now I readily admit that I cannot prove him wrong. No one can. I am myself one of the biggest believers in the resilience of the Hong Kong economy, and the record has shown often enough that just when the Government's finances looked a little wobbly, things rapidly improved and we were back to a big surplus. It would also take hours of slogging away over spreadsheets to suggest a few areas where he may have been too optimistic for his own forecast of a trend economic growth rate in real terms of three per cent annually over the five years. And even then, it is still possible this three per cent could be too low. Get the property market booming again to restore capital revenue, get other sources of recurrent revenue providing more, institute a few of the expenditure cuts proposed for when evidence of economic recovery has firmed, and a surplus fiscal position is on the cards within five years. But even so, there was certainly more of an element of hands clasped and head bowed as Antony Leung predicted it than there was any detailed forecast on how it will all come together. And it should make you wonder why we had all this fuss about a 'structural' deficit when fixing the problem appears so easy. In pure budget terms, this was one of the mild stimulatory sort, a little extra across the board for everyone to get private spending up, and the yearly dose of punishment for sinners restricted only to taxes on wine drinkers. It was what so many maiden budgets are: timid. But while this is likely to make it well received, particularly with the assurances that the deficit problem will be solved, it did not tackle one of the biggest fiscal problems: not that we may have a structural deficit, but that revenue sources are so volatile and narrowly based. It is well past the time that the Government thought of a way of getting itself off the roller coaster of lease-conversion premiums and land sales from an up and down property market. Some thinking about a land development tax or another way of getting stability in property revenue is sorely needed, but there was no hint of it in this speech. In fact, it featured the reverse in temporary relief from rates, the most stable form of property revenue that could exist. Further concessions on water rates, which are already far below the cost of providing water, also seem odd. Not only will this encourage water wastage, it chops back another stable revenue source. So, while Mr Leung may still get his return to a fiscal surplus, the one thing he is not likely to get from the way his budget thinking runs is a smooth return to it. The day he gets it is the day he will once more have to worry about incurring a big deficit the next year. My experience of riding the Dragon at Ocean Park is that I will not do it twice in a row. I wish I had that option in fiscal matters, but it appears I will not.