It may be tempting to rate John Tsang Chun-wah as one of the most accomplished financial secretaries in history. His final giveaway budget in the current term has just been passed by the Legislative Council without a hitch. After dishing out a multibillion-dollar relief package to please the public, Tsang still managed to flush the public coffers with HK$660 billion in reserves. Our economy, despite a cloudy global outlook, is expected to grow by up to 3 per cent this year. The unemployment rate remains at 3.4 per cent. All signs suggest Tsang is heading towards a comfortable farewell on June 30. The outgoing finance chief also gave himself a glowing report card when summing up in the budget debate in Legco. He boasted of his balancing acts in helping the needy, while maintaining fiscal discipline over the past five years. Evidently, managing one of the world's most globalised economies is no easy task. The job becomes more difficult in the face of an ever-demanding community like Hong Kong's. Tsang deserves credit for keeping the city in relatively good shape despite the economic turbulence elsewhere. No matter whether he is to stay on or not, he has reasons to take pride in his some of his achievements; and the legacy that he may be leaving behind. But what really makes Tsang stand out from his predecessors is his giveaway budgets. Unlike others who carefully try to play down public expectations of the government, Tsang, regrettably, has acted to the contrary. During his term, concessions like bonus welfare payments and waivers in rates and public housing rent have become standard features in his annual budget. He even made a shocking U-turn to offer a HK$6,000 cash handout to all adult permanent residents last year. The relief measures he has given add up to HK$190 billion. Although his largesse is mostly confined to one-off measures rather than long-term spending, government expenditure has jumped nearly 70 per cent over the past five years, outstripping the nominal 21 per cent GDP growth during the period. No doubt many of the goodies have provided timely relief to people in need. But there is a danger that this could lead to a dependence on government handouts, which will put the incoming administration in a difficult position. Tsang could have done a better service for Hong Kong had he tackled a wide range of issues like medical financing and the poverty gap more proactively. Many challenges were raised in his first budget. It is disappointing that little progress has been made. Separately, his measures to stabilise property prices and enhance land supply are also seen as not going far enough. Affordable housing remains a distant dream to many in the city. A truly successful finance chief goes beyond winning applause with big spending. Hong Kong could have been in better shape if many of the city's long-term challenges had been tackled with more resources and effort.