THERE was no coherent theme running through the first two hours of Governor Patten's 21/2-hour policy speech. He failed to sketch a social and economic landscape that extended beyond a few years. Apparently having heaps of bank notes stashed away somewhere in the Government coffers, he offered generous programmes to satisfy demands from political groups for improvements in various areas, taking particular care to fill in the criticised gaps in his speech last year. However, these programmes were mostly aimed at pacifying pressure groups with instant gratification rather than meeting tomorrow's challenges, as the title of his speech claimed. Not enough places available for the elderly at nursing homes? OK, here you go . . . $800 million to provide more. Some public hospitals look rather run-down? OK, another $800 million to renovate the interior and beautify the facade. Money is no solution to the social and economic issues if the Government does not attempt to get to the heart of those problems that have been gripping Hong Kong over the past few years. For example, is the Government aware of the fundamentals behind the soaring property prices? Rushing to tuck money into the pockets of the ''sandwich class'' to enable them to buy flats on the open market is merely a tangential solution for want of any long-range strategy to deal with the imbalance between land supply and demand. The Governor included care of the elderly in his list of priorities for the coming year, but as long as the Government continues to dodge the issue over the provision of some kind of social security system, we will continue to see many old people continue to work for mean wages instead of enjoying a leisurely retirement. It is nice to have air-conditioned classrooms in our schools, but what actually goes on inside these classrooms is more important to our schoolchildren, most of whom will live and work here long after the end of British rule. The present Government does not seem to have any idea, or even to care about, how to ensure schools provide the kind of education our younger generation needs for the next century. If Mr Patten continues his ''quick-fix'' tricks, he will need increasing financial resources to satisfy fresh demands coming up each year. This should cause serious concern to people who want to build their home in Hong Kong, even with the $78 billion fiscal surplus the Government claims will be there by 1997. Instead of a reactive strategy which deals with social issues with piece-meal solutions, we need long-term policies for our economic development, social service, education, housing and care for the needy. Without a distinct sense of direction it is impossible to talk sensibly about priorities and reasonable allocation of resources. We expected to hear an answer from Mr Patten. Where do we go from here? That was asking too much of a lame-duck government, some may say. But Mr Patten never admits to being a lame duck, and he did not behave like one when, at the Chinese National Day reception, he talked about climbing high and looking far ahead. Whether the last British Governor of Hong Kong can govern with vision through this term of office depends on whether China and Britain can co-operate in the period of transition as envisaged in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. When he delivered his first policy speech last year, Mr Patten broke from his predecessors' pattern and said nothing about the China factor in Hong Kong's social and economic development. He made up for this omission this year and talked at length about the China relationship. ''I am greatly encouraged by the breadth and depth of our relationship with China,'' he said. But, of course, people realised Mr Patten's relationship with the Chinese Government was dominated by the dispute over the constitutional reform package he announced a year ago. At this time last year, Mr Patten was saying with confidence that constitutional matters would be settled in a few months' time, and his Government could then focus its attention on social and economic issues. Now the chance of us having a successful election in 1995 is still hanging in the air. ''Where have our efforts failed to bear fruit?'' said Mr Patten. ''In an area where no one wants failure; in the attempt to create a closer understanding with China, to replace baleful suspicion with confident trust.'' But what efforts has Mr Patten made to create a closer understanding with China? If every piece of his public rhetoric about China bristles with suspicion and distrust, what can he expect other than reciprocated feelings on the other side? Understanding and trust are indeed needed, not only for the election talks to succeed, but for the vast amount of work that has to be done by the two governments in co-operation in order to ensure a smooth transfer of sovereignty in less than four years'time. By ''trust'' we do not mean the kind of loyalty that exists between friends or allies. That would be too much to ask of two governments ideologically so far apart. Beijing will always regard Britain as a Western power living in reminiscences of colonial times and bearing a grudge against a strong and independent China, while in the eyes of the British the communist-led government in Beijing is totalitarian, oppressive and opposed to democracy. It is only natural for Deng Xiaoping to predict the British will make trouble and create obstacles to China's resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong. It is also natural for Chris Patten to ask with passion: ''If we are not prepared to stand up for Hong Kong's way of life today, what chance of doing so tomorrow?'' We are talking of trust on the basis of covenants made in the common interest of both parties, belief the other side will keep their promises as long as promises are kept on this side. The British may have good reasons of their own to regret having made bad promises before. Such as when they talked to the Chinese about the through-train on the basis of not-so-democratic elections for the functional constituencies. But if they still want the Chinese to honour their previous agreements they should not start behaving as if they are reneging on them. Michael Sze Cho-cheung observed after a recent round of talks that Hong Kong people would be disappointed if no agreement could be reached. It would not be of any help at all to convince people that the other side was responsible for the breakdown, he said. This is absolutely true. That is why we are not satisfied with Mr Patten's ''It's not our fault'' pleading. Tsang Yok-sing is chairman of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong.