SO HERE WE are with a fiscal deficit that in the 12 months to January this year has topped HK$80 billion, already well above the financial secretary's estimate of HK$70 billion for the full fiscal year, and equivalent to about 6.2 per cent of gross domestic product, more than double the World Bank's safety guideline. Let us go through a rundown of some of the expenditure measures our government is taking to deal with this problem. Unfortunately, 'spend more' measures still seem to be more prominent than 'spend less' measures. First up we have the acting commissioner for Innovation and Technology, Sarah Kwok, indulging in a long piece of government techno-babble in the Technology section of this newspaper yesterday. If there is one activity in which our government officials show true expertise, it is in patting themselves on the back while telling us that we believe all they tell us. Ms Kwok did not hold back. 'The government's initiatives and programmes on promoting innovation and technology are progressing well, with a wide acceptance of the value of innovative and creative thinking in broadening Hong Kong's economic activities.' Let us take one example that Ms Kwok mentioned. Science Park, she wrote, 'is creating a focal point and conducive environment in which technology-based firms can operate successfully'. The fact is that before we started Science Park and Cyberport (let us not forget this loser) a technology cluster was already evolving at Swireberport, Swire Pacific's office complex at Island East. The effect of these two expensive government-sponsored projects has not been to create a focal point but to defocus and decluster what was emerging on its own. Let us also remember here that take-up of office space across Hong Kong is now in its second year of negative numbers. These two projects exacerbate the downturn in our property market and contribute to destabilising our economy. They do not broaden our economic activities. They narrow them. But it is common with government fluff that talk of economic activities is in inverse proportion to facts and figures on those activities and I must thus content myself with rebutting Ms Kwok's concluding statements. 'We will continue to support innovation and technology as an economic driver . . .' Sorry, Ms Kwok, but innovation and technology is not an economic driver in Hong Kong. This is a trading town, not Silicon Valley. We make our money by using other people's ideas in technology. It is more profitable too. '. . . As well as promoting university-industry collaboration in R&D [research and development] . . .' Sorry, but those 'E' standard . . . ahem . . . universities are not up to it. They still can do little better than yesterday's ideas tomorrow and we will just lose more public money. '. . . and encouraging the private sector to invest and engage more in R&D activities.' Sorry, but it is none of your business. If the private sector thinks it can make money from R&D it will put money in R&D. If it does not, you will just waste more public money again. And then the Director-General of Trade and Industry, Eugene Fung, protests in a letter to the editor that I had it wrong in a recent column when describing public guarantees of loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) as a waste of public funds. I indeed had it wrong. I thought this waste was topped out at HK$5 billion. Apparently, it is still going on. Mr Fung, I repeat my question to you. Our banks are flush with cash that they would be happy to lend without any assistance from you, but if they think a loan proposal is a bad risk unless you guarantee it, what makes you think it is a good risk with public funds? You tell us that this SME scheme was started because of a liquidity crunch arising from the Asian financial crisis but our banks now run a loan to deposit ratio of 83.5 per cent. This is a liquidity deluge, not a liquidity crunch. What reason have you now for SME guarantees? Your motive is gone. Why not call a halt today? Finally, we have that perpetual proponent of big government spending, Mike Rowse of InvestHK, who has just seen his budget for attracting foreign investment boosted by 50 per cent to HK$600 million. Mike, if our banks cannot find enough worthwhile ideas at the moment for putting our deposits to work, why do we need to spend hundreds of millions to ask foreigners to do what the experts on the ground say is not to be done just now? Will you please stop trying to import coals to Newcastle. Our role as a financial centre is to invest capital in other economies. We do not need theirs. We are flush with money. Our external claims on foreign entities already exceed our liabilities to them by almost the size of our economy. This extra money we have given you is a straight waste of public funds. Yes, spend, spend, spend still seems to be the theme. I have very little confidence in the financial secretary's timetable of a return to a fiscal balance.