Gov’t estimates surplus to slump to 740 million patacas in 2009

Thursday, November 20, 2008
Issue 533, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 837
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The amount of government surplus in 2009 is estimated to shrink from 20 billion patacas in 2008, to about 740 million patacas as attributed by the global economic environment and the largest budget ever set out for public investment in a bid to boost employment opportunities for local people.

Secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, presented the draft of the budget plan for the 2009 fiscal year at the Legislative Assembly yesterday which will then be passed on to one of the standing committees for deliberation.

According to the bill the total revenue of the SAR government in 2009 will be about 44.714 billion patacas, which comprises the “major source of revenue” from the gaming tax estimated at 29.39 billion patacas.

The Secretary said the gaming tax was calculated based on the 6.8 billion pataca monthly gross gaming receipts estimated in 2009.

Meanwhile, the total expenditure next year will be about 43.975 billion patacas. Of which, the budget for investment and development plan (PIDDA) accounts for 10.289 billion patacas, a surge of 2.12 billion patacas or 25.3 percent from 2008 which makes it the largest amount ever planned for this category.

Tam said the investment and development plan will include a number of large scale public housing constructions such as in Taipa lot TN27 at 550 million patacas, Ilha Verde at 480 million patacas, Mong Ha at 230 million patacas as well as a new prison at some 400 million patacas.

At the same time, a string of tax allowance measures adopted this year will continue in 2009 which will reduce the amount of government revenue received by nearly 1.1 billion patacas.

The measures include exemption of housing tax for 3,500 patacas, lifting the allowances of occupational tax and supplementary income tax respectively from 95,000 patacas to 120,000 patacas and from 32,000 patacas to 200,000 patacas.

As well, there will be a full exemption of sales tax, stamp duty on insurance policies and bank charges, tourism tax for restaurants, and a three million pataca real estate transfer stamp duty for Macau permanent residents who purchase their first residential property.

Due to the significantly increased expenditures on public investment and livelihood measures and also “the impacts from the global economic downturn on revenue”, Tam said the surplus next year was estimated to be dropped to some 739 million patacas, excluding the surplus logged from autonomous public institutes of 126 million patacas.

On the other hand, in the plenary meeting at the Assembly yesterday, lawmaker Kwan Tsui Hang pointed out that the SAR government was “always conservative” in its planning budget, and she questioned what gave the administration “confidence” that the revenue would be at 44.714 billion patacas next year from about 30.8 billion patacas in 2008.

The Secretary said the government was “conservative” but also “optimistic” in the 2009 budget plan, adding that they had already taken into account a 20 percent decrease of gross gaming receipts from this year’s about eight billion per month to 6.8 billion patacas in 2009.

Among the expenditures planned for 2009, Tam told the Assembly the at least two billion patacas for the cash hand-out scheme to local residents, and also the funds needed to set up social enterprises and the dual social security system were not included.

Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong then questioned the government representatives of whether those “hidden expenditures” would cause an eventual deficit in the budget plan.

However, Tam responded that the Chief Executive had already said the cash hand-out scheme and the dual social security system would make use of the public reserve accumulated over the past years, and only in March next year when the settlement for 2008 fiscal year was completed, the government could then confirm how much from the balance they could “share” with local residents.

The Secretary also stressed that they did not “deliberately exclude” any big expenditures from the budget plan so as to make it appear as “having a surplus”, adding the budget for the dual social security system should only be logged after it was formally established.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Iong Weng Ian said although the budget for investment and development plan swelled by 25.3 percent in a bid create more job vacancies for local people under the shadow of the global financial turmoil, the implementation rate of public construction projects as of October 2008 was only 10 percent.

According to Tam, the Chief Executive had vowed that the administration would strive to boost the implementation rate of investment and development plan in 2009, especially to initiate the kind of construction projects that “local people are more familiar with”.

The Secretary admitted that over the past years the budget allocated for this expenditure had not been fully used, but said at that time it was compensated by a large number of private investments in Macau.

However, as it was predicted that private investment would diminish in the coming year, Tam said the government would be “very aware of the importance of executing public construction projects in the future”.


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