Economic affairs officials, rather than outside candidates, are the most likely contenders to be considered for the post of financial secretary, academics suggested last night. Following the resignation of Antony Leung Kam-chung, the government announced that Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip Shu-kwan would be the acting financial secretary. Political scientist Ma Ngok, of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said nobody outside the government would want to join the 'sinking ship' in view of the government's battered image. 'Besides, it's very difficult to deal with the huge budget deficit,' Professor Ma said. According to the latest official forecasts, the budget deficit is expected to hit $68 billion this financial year. Professor Ma said the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Henry Tang Ying-yen, and Mr Ip were both suitable candidates to take up the post because of their experience in dealing with economic affairs. 'It's much easier to ask people to take up the post of secretary for economic development and labour than financial secretary,' Professor Ma said. In view of speculation that former secretary for financial services Rafael Hui Si-yan might be invited to take up the post, Professor Mak said that it was highly unlikely that somebody who had chosen to leave the government would turn around and return at such a difficult period. But he believed it would be a good idea to invite academics to take up the post as they would offer fresh of hope for the public. However, it remained to be seen whether any one of them would be interested. Speculation has arisen that Edward Chan Kwan-yiu, the president of Lingnan University, would be invited to become the new finance chief. Political analyst Ivan Choy Chi-keung, of City University, said that amid the political turmoil, nobody would want to risk their careers by joining a government whose reputation had been tarnished by the recent series of incidents.