The middle class became less satisfied with Hong Kong's macroeconomy in the second half of last year, a poll has found, prompting calls for tax relief. A survey carried out by the political group New Forum found the satisfaction index for the middle class's confidence in the macroeconomy dropped 16.3 points from 126.2 during the first half of the year to 109.9 in the second. This has placed the index at a record low since it was introduced in early 2004. The index for middle-class emotions recorded a 7.7 per cent drop in the second half of last year to 114.4, the poll found. Thirty-two per cent of around 900 people interviewed said they were happier than half a year ago, compared to 35.6 per cent who said so during the first half of 2005. Twenty-five per cent indicated they were less happy in the latter half of 2005, compared to 19.3 per cent who felt that way in the first half of the year. New Forum called on the government to lower the salaries tax rate and adjust the tax band to the 2002-03 level. The government should also extend the seven-year limit for tax deductions on home-loan interest, it said. The group also backed the introduction of a five-day working week, saying this would create more job opportunities. The Forum urged the government to look for new sources of economic development in the mainland's 11th five-year plan by focusing on high value-added industries such as traditional Chinese medicine and the logistics sector. Meanwhile, HSBC economist George Leung Siu-kay has upgraded his 2006 GDP forecast for Hong Kong to 5.5 per cent from 4.8 per cent. He cited growing evidence that the healthy recovery in domestic demand is here to stay and may be further buoyed by expectations that the current cycle of interest rate rises is peaking. Mr Leung said potential downside risks, including a sharp slowdown in the US economy and the threat of a bird flu outbreak, 'appear manageable given current developments'.