May 1 protests could be cancelled

Friday, April 25, 2008
Issue 324, Page 1 & 2
Word count: 540
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

More than one rally which were originally planned to be staged on May 1 demanding measures to tackle illegal workers as well as soaring living costs could be called off after the Chief Executive announced the two-billion pataca subsidy for Macau residents on Tuesday.

According to lawmaker and chief member of the New Macau Association, Au Kam San, the latest government announcement of distributing a one-time 5,000 pataca or 3,000 pataca subsidy to every permanent and non-permanent resident in July did “cool down the May 1 rally sentiment”.

Mr Au told the Macau Daily Times there were about two or three workers’ associations that had already submitted a May 1 protest notification to the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) some time ago and planned to march to the government headquarters from Iao Hon Park and the Triangle Park in Areia Preta respectively.

But due to the unexpected relief measures of the government, the lawmaker said whether the rallies would still stick to the original plan had now become uncertain.

As the past protests in Macau had mainly been organised by construction workers, the result would depend on how much they were satisfied with the government aid, Mr Au said.

“The underemployment workers may rather want to have more working hours than to receive 5,000 patacas which is a completely short-term assistance,” he added.

The New Macau Association held a press conference yesterday to give out opinions about the series of new government measures to relieve residents’ livelihood.

Another lawmaker and association’s chief member, Ng Kuok Cheong, said inflation was to some extent “inevitable in an economic hot spot”, but the primary issues were how to boost people’s income and to restrain inflation from growing excessively.

Although giving away government revenue would “please the public temporary and help alleviate social discontent”, the association said the only way to wipe out the root problem was to solve the insufficient supply of public housing, excessive amount of illegal and imported labourers, as well as to perform what the government had for a long time promised to its people.

“In order to truly suppress and resist the pressure caused by inflation, it’s important to cease the monopoly of business operation, build more public housing against soaring property prices and rent, reduce the number of imported workers and eliminate the illegal ones so that local workers’ employment rights can be secured,” Mr Ng said.

The association demanded the government to construct 40,000 public housing units by 2012 from the originally promised 19,000 by employing their 150,000 square-metre reclaimed land parcel near Estrada de Seac Pai Van in Coloane.

Mr Ng said not only because the government had stopped building public housing for years, but seeing as how there were already 20,000 households accumulated in the waiting list, 19,000 units would not meet social demand.

The association also suggested that the government introduce a mechanism for reporting illegal workers anonymously and urged for the gradual dismissal of half of the 19,000 non-technical imported workers in the gaming industry and the restriction for gaming service providers’ imported labourer quotas.

Distributing pensions to 60 year olds instead of 65 and launching public consultation for universal suffrage in 2019 were also part of the lobby group’s agenda yesterday.

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