GOVERNOR Chris Patten promised 18 months ago that the first Special Administrative Region (SAR) would inherit a dowry worthy of Cleopatra. Yesterday, Sir Hamish Macleod posted a cheque for $268,934,000,000, give or take a few billion, that will arrive in March 1998. Mr Patten said the blueprint was excellent and Sir Hamish thought it historic. But China, and many others in Hong Kong, will probably regard it as highly political in that it attempts to win the hearts of all: low income earners, middle-class managers and professionals, big-profit-making hongs, and, last but not the least, the decision-makers in Zhongnanhai, who are meant to be impressed by the size of the cheque. From a hefty increase in personal allowances and a surprise reduction in profits tax to a whole range of little giveaways, the sheer scale of concessions sent Sir Hamish straight to the top of the Financial Secretary popularity stakes. On the face of it, there should be no lack of support from the community for what is believed to be unprecedented generosity, even though there were whispers of criticism from Legislative Councillors from time to time yesterday. But the big question mark is whether it will be seen as so attractive in Beijing. Chinese officials were yesterday either cautious or would not comment. But certainly, the dramatic upward adjustments in Sir Hamish's longer-term forecasts must have caught mainland officials' attention. Only 12 months ago he was projecting a period of high deficit in the run-up to 1997 that would leave only $78 billion in the kitty three months before the changeover. Yesterday, he tipped that an impressive $120 billion would have accumulated by March 1997, and the following year the first SAR Government would be operating with reserves of $141 billion and a Land Fund of an estimated $125 billion, plus interest. Sir Hamish and his predecessor, Sir Piers Jacobs, have in the past deliberately tended to be over-conservative in their estimates. This year, Sir Hamish has taken a bold chance in predicting an extremely optimistic economic outlook. Only time, and Hong Kong's traditions of hard work and expertise, will tell whether he is right. But with the Government anxious to impress upon China and the community that Hong Kong does have the ability to build the airport projects without leaving a financial burden to the SAR Government, a theme Chinese officials keep repeating, an upbeat forecast will enable the British Hong Kong administration to present an even more convincing case.