The job creation programme could be left in limbo because of the government's desperation to curb the financial deficit, academics and unionists have warned. In his 2001 policy address, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said the administration would create 32,000 jobs, a figure since revised upwards to more than 34,000. By the end of November, only 19,044 jobs had been created, leaving the government with more than 15,000 to find to keep its promise. Jobs are generated from four public service sectors - works projects; the Housing Department's property management services; education, healthcare, welfare and others; and cleaning services. The government has confirmed that it has 6,936 openings to be filled before the end of March, with the rest to be created on or after April 1. But City University public and social administration professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said policy contradictions in recent months had cast doubt on whether the target could be reached. 'On the one hand, the government is talking about the importance of the fiscal deficit and the need to tackle the problem urgently. On the other hand, it wants to provide more jobs and services without increasing expenditure. 'If the government is serious about cutting public expenditure, it should not continue encouraging departments to create more jobs, including temporary ones, because this won't help reduce the deficit,' Professor Cheung said. According to latest official figures, the deficit for the eight months up to November 30 was $70.8 billion. Ho Lok-sang, director of Lingnan University's Centre for Public Policy Studies, said the job programme seemed to have paid off as the jobless rate fell from a high of 7.8 per cent in July to 7.1 per cent in November. But Professor Ho warned that if less cost-effective public works projects are put on hold - as the government has hinted - further recovery could be hampered. Legislator Li Fung-ying, of the Federation of Hong Kong and Kowloon Labour Unions, said the government was playing games. 'The public is not made aware of the fact that while new jobs, most of them of a temporary and part-time nature, are being created, permanent ones have rapidly disappeared through various voluntary exit programmes.' Ms Li feared if the government did make drastic public expenditure cutbacks, the rest of its job programme could be derailed. The Economic Development and Labour Bureau said the programme would proceed according to its timetable.