The Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, said this week at the Legislative Assembly that it was difficult to predict the scenario that Macau faces. However, he admitted that new epidemic waves could be dealt with with the same rigidity, and that border policy would be left to the Central Government. On the economic front, he addressed emerging industries and the strong focus on artificial intelligence, prompting different reactions from the population.
The June 18 outbreak appears to be over, but Macau’s economy has been hit hard.
The focus of the plenary session of the LA, which included the Chief Executive, focused on the future of the local economy and the auxiliary measures to be implemented.
Lei Chan U raised questions about the expected results for new industries and economic development during the term of this Government. Ho Iat Seng replied that this is set out in the Second Five Year Plan and that among the various industries, gaming and the exhibition and convention sector should not produce less than 40 percent of GDP, being the industries that contribute the most to the fiscal revenue of the Government.
In the remaining sectors, such as the financial and insurance industry, commerce, construction and healthcare, he expects them to reach at least 15 percent.
“Regarding the tax return produced, honestly Macau’s tax revenue is quite low, with the gaming industry currently representing 20 percent of GDP. If it rises to 40 percent, it would be possible to cancel 80 percent of the government’s annual expenditure. There is little taxation in the other industries,” he admits.
The economic downturn made the use of public resources and finances receive more attention. Zheng Anting questioned the Chief Executive about issuing public bonds and auctioning land in Macau.
Ho Iat Seng assured that the government issued public bonds not to increase tax revenue, but to find a new “way out” for residents, whose deposits exceed 600 million patacas. Regarding the auctions, he says that they will start after due legal procedures, such as geotechnical drilling and the land is ready to be sold. Regarding the profit from these sales, he says “don’t expect too much”, since prices that are too high would be unaffordable for the vast majority.
The authorities expect the real estate market to develop gradually, without creating speculation or values that are too low to cause negative equity.
TOURISM IN PRECARIOUS SITUATION
The outbreak that began in June delayed the recovery of the tourist industry. “Even with all possible preparations, a new epidemic wave tomorrow could stop everything again”, warns Ho Iat Seng, adding that he has been dealing with the pandemic on a recurring basis since the beginning of his term and that “there is no way to for a regular plan to work.”
“We wanted a good summer this year, but it wasn’t possible. In November of last year (during Golden Week), we also wanted a positive situation, but we couldn’t. At the time of Chinese New Year we had problems again. The year 2021 appears to have been a relatively positive economic year worldwide. Despite the impact of the pandemic, there was still no war. This year everything happened at the same time, it was hard to predict. Even so, the Government will do its best to prevent and control this epidemic and follow the necessary path,” he said. Wang Sai Man, Leong Hong Sai and Song Pek Kei also mention border problems.
The Chief Executive guarantees that negotiations with mainland China are progressing to create a special corridor between Hengqin and Macau, that is, if the border between Macau and the Island is open during an outbreak, Macau will be accepting the risk that this will implies.
“With the opening between Macau and Hengqin, Macau residents will be able to continue to enter Hengqin even in the event of an outbreak in Macau. However, if there is an outbreak in Hengqin, locals may also enter Macau,” he explains. On the normalization of epidemic prevention measures between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, he says that this decision will be in the hands of the Central Government.
He also defended that the Executive will continue to promote the idea of suspension of isolation for residents returning from the Continent. Currently, Macau’s borders are open only with mainland China, with the exception of special corridors for non-residents – subject to quarantine -, namely with Portugal. However, he states that the Government will continue to explore opening borders with other nations.
“We still have some reservations about the suspension of the quarantine for those who return to Macau, as the measures differ from those practiced on the mainland”.
INDUSTRIAL DIVERSIFICATION AND BEGINNING OF THE METAVERSE
In response to a question raised by deputy Ngan Iek Hang about new industries, Ho Iat Seng says that these are not the result of the pandemic and that they result from a development strategy. Pandemic or no pandemic, he says emerging industries will develop at their own pace.
“Artificial intelligence is the main focus of emerging industries, especially in their relationship with the metaverse. That’s why we hope that Macao’s young people will be able to develop in this sense”, he says.
It also mentions that the first project related to the metaverse in the Deep Cooperation Zone has already been launched, in the hope that the next generations will explore this aspect.
ECONOMIC SUPPORT DIRECTED TO RESIDENTS
The Macau Commercial Association also proposed to the Secretariat for Economy and Finance that the second plan of auxiliary economic measures of 10 million patacas include a consumption card of 3,000 patacas for non-resident workers. However, the proposal caused some controversy. Ho Iat Seng clarified that the aid will only apply to local residents, adding that when the aid was communicated, on July 16, the measure had already been defined as “universal” for “Macao residents” and that the “views expressed by organizations or individuals should not be taken as the opinion of the Government”.
He added that there is “no total justice in these measures, but opinions will be taken into account”, although they may not be accepted.
As for the unemployment problem, the most recent unemployment rate among Macau’s local residents is 4.8 percent, ie around 15,000 people. Ho Iat Seng said that the current 100,000 jobs held by non-residents would be enough to solve the problem of resident unemployment, but questioned the ability of the local population to fill the vacancies left. It’s something society has to reflect on, he considers.
POPULATION WITH MIXED REACTIONS
In the universe of social networks, the Chief Executive’s speech was received with different reactions to the development of the metaverse.
Some criticized that “the Government bets on the metaverse when it doesn’t even know what cryptocurrencies and NFTs are”. Others asked, “With such a slow internet, how can we learn to develop the metaverse?” Many other residents have expressed their support for the financial aid measures, saying they are “a help”.
Others suggested that “consumer cards should also be distributed to non-resident workers, as they also spend in Macau”. Some question the city’s ability to “make tourists fly more than 10 hours for a week of quarantine in Macau”.
According to All About Macau, an elderly man waited in front of the LA and demanded to meet with the Chief Executive, demonstrating his displeasure with the measures to support small and medium-sized companies and the huge amounts of public capital directed to them without consultation. prior public.