IT was brave of Dr Doom, aka Marc Faber, and Ian Perkin, to risk hubris and bring us their forecasts for dollar exchange rates and the price of oil and gold. But where was Dr Andrew Freris, economics supremo at Salomon Brothers? He was there last year, and he forecast the price of gold to ''go down and stay down''. In the good doctor's view, the glittery stuff was no more than a barbaric relic which would soon be no more exalted than zinc. His forecast was US$315 an ounce. Lai See's 20-20 hindsight shows us how wrong he was. The price at the end of last year was $391 an ounce. And if you really wanted to make a serious killing last year, you didn't need to mess around with blue-chip Hang Seng stocks. The all-indices star performer of 1993 was the London stock market's gold-mines index which went off like a rocket, gaining 314.26 per cent in 12 months. We should not be too hard on Dr Freris, though. The mines index did have a little help from superspeculator George Soros, who bought gold, gold stocks and gold forwards and could be held personally responsible for the whole thing. Dr Doom was only bullish about one thing last year: gold. He predicted a price of $410 an ounce. Not bad. And the man with the shrinking ponytail was closest on oil, too, with a pick of $15 a barrel, compared with a year-end price of $13. But the star was former Business Post editor Ian Perkin, who appeared not to be taking it at all seriously last year. He warned us about the most dangerous people to the world economy last year, naming Bill Clinton as number one, and Faber, Freris and Perkin as eight, nine and 10, respectively. He also came closest to picking the $-yen, $-DM, $-stg and $-HK$ crosses. He wins the ultimate Lai See accolade: respect, dude. Next year, we find out how good the official Lai See team is when the predictions of John Mulcahy, our very first compiler, are compared with the actualite. Dialectic THOSE awfully nice people from Hongkong Telecom CSL have produced an interesting survey on the subject of mobile-phone use. Interesting factoid number one: people CSL considers to be ''opinion leaders'' are three times more patient than the rest of us. Most of those surveyed, 76 per cent, said they gave up trying to reach people by phone after three attempts or less. The 36 unidentified opinion leaders claim they persevere far longer. Although just over half of them quit when the rest of us would, 42 per cent will call seven times before admitting defeat. But then, they know why they are not being answered, because 83 per cent of opinion leaders pretend to be busy to avoid unwanted calls from journalists, forex salesmen and people pestering them to become Beijing advisers. And a further 14 per cent of opinion leaders pretend to be someone else. ''Hello, is that Mr Patten speaking?'' ''This is Xinhua News Agency. Presently, there is no one here to answer your call . . .'' Diagnostic THERE is more to yesterday's Chinese-bond story than meets the eye. David Chapman, senior portfolio manager at Matheson PFC and a former trader in collectable bonds in London, called us. First of all, he said there was no GBP25 converted this twice already not necessary again bond. They were available at GBP100 and GBP20, and in deutschemarks, French francs and Russian roubles, he told us. The other currencies are there because of involvement in the issue by banks from Russia, France and Germany. What's more, our final price was wrong too, because we included the cost of framing - the bond only costs about $300 while framing makes up the balance. And finally, the Chinese Government actually redeemed the 1913 issue. In 1986, following an agreement between the UK and China, bond-holders living in the UK received 56 per cent of the face value with no allowance for unpaid interest. That is a better deal than it might sound, Mr Chapman says. Old bonds which are bent, spindled or mutilated sell for very much less than those on lovely mint-condition paper in the collectors' market. But the condition was irrelevant as far as redemption was concerned, so Mr Chapman was able to realise a good profit. ''The bonds were trading in 1978 at 10 per cent of face value in London,'' he said. There have been similar opportunities in Bulgarian, Hungarian and East German bonds, he said, and now a select group of investors has turned its eyes toward Estonia, formerly part of the Soviet Union and now considering some kind of recognition of old creditors. Noteworthy NOTHING too controversial in the Bank of China's new banknote designs. But Lai See would have chosen different buildings to represent Hong Kong's dynamism. Instead of Kwai Chung container port, we would have chosen CT9. The cross-harbour tunnel is an interesting choice as it is not the most arresting landmark. We prefer Kai Tak, or possibly Chek Lap Kok. The Convention and Exhibition Centre is a reasonable landmark, but if they were looking for somewhere easy to get lost in and even more historical, we suggest Kowloon's Walled City. The Cultural Centre is another reasonable choice, but the Peak Tower is far more famous. The final landmark chosen by the Bank Of China is Victoria Harbour - again uncontroversial. As a symbol of change, we nominate the GCHQ listening station at Sai Wan Ho. This is due to be dismantled before 1997, making it a perfect symbol of the vibrancy and change which is associated with Hong Kong. All our suggestions may have something in common, but we can't spot it. Reserve stock OH dear! Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed by now that kindly Uncle Gren with his twinkly, smiling eyes and merry laugh has gone on holiday. And a wicked step-Lai See has been left behind in his place. Not to worry, all the equipment, including the Lai See robes of state, the Lee Ming Tee 10-gallon Eel Rancher's hat and other arcana has been left in place and we'll try to resume normal service as soon as the genuine article's condition has been stabilised. With any luck, Gren will be off the major tranquillisers within a week and may even be allowed to write us a postcard with a nice, soft wax crayon - between therapy sessions.