The government is likely to have a fiscal deficit of more than HK$7.5 billion for the coming financial year, the financial secretary predicts. 'We foresee income for the 2009-10 financial year will drop,' John Tsang Chun-wah said after attending a televised public forum in Tseung Kwan O. 'However our expenditure will not shrink as citizens still need the services. So the 2009-10 deficit will be larger ... I believe it will be more than HK$7.5 billion.' He also said that the accounts for the current year would end up with a net deficit close to HK$7.5 billion, as he estimated last year, despite a surprisingly big surplus of nearly HK$31 billion recorded for the first three quarters. 'Last year I made a forecast of a HK$7.5 billion deficit, which would make an almost balanced budget,' Mr Tsang said. 'My current estimation is about the same. 'Although we recorded a surplus in December, many big items had not yet been entered into the accounts.' During the one-hour forum, members of the audience suggested various relief or handout measures to Mr Tsang. Many said that their lives or the industries they worked in had been affected by the economic downturn. But none of the speakers succeeded in getting a concrete promise from the finance chief, who had said that he would listen to their opinions. One person said: 'I want the government to give HK$5,000 in cash to everyone. This will create many jobs.' Another man, who appeared to be unhappy, told Mr Tsang: 'I hope the salaries of civil servants can be cut down. We citizens are suffering from great pain now. Can't you earn a little bit less?' Mr Tsang said: 'Hong Kong's government spending is already among the lowest in the world, which accounts for less than 20 per cent of GDP. Our civil servants have been doing quite a good job.' Mr Tsang said the three principles of this year's budget were to help people with employment, boost the city's long-term competitiveness, and create conditions for the sustainable development of Hong Kong's economy. He will deliver the budget on February 25.