Intellects advocate 24-hour border crossing

Monday, February 22, 2010
Issue 945, Page 3
Word count: 654
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A non-profit academic organisation from Macau is hoping that the advantages of round the clock customs clearance at the Macau-Zhuhai border, amongst other suggestions, will be brought up during the NPC and CPPCC annual sessions to be held in March in Beijing.

Founded in November 2009, the Macau Wisdom Convergence Network aims to group together intellects to study the development of Macau in various areas and to broaden members’ international vision in order to facilitate the sustainable development of the SAR.

Since the latest sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) will be opened next month, the organisation held a press conference yesterday to reveal the seven topics which they hope will be discussed at that time.

The sessions of China’s parliament and top political advisory body in Beijing draw the eyes of world media every year.

The seven topics, selected by the organisation’s mainland and Macau members, are – the advantages of 24-hour customs clearance between Zhuhai and Macau; to reinforce management of foreign workers in China; construction of guaranteed housing for low-income families; facilitate public hospital reforms; reinforce waste segregation in major Chinese cities; balance the income gap; and also to support the private economy.

Although the topics are mostly in the context of mainland China, vice president of the Macau Wisdom Convergence Network Celia Lao Sio Wun said all of them are related to Macau because the central government’s policies “to a great extent” will cause impact to the territory.

“The motherland sets the general direction and I believe the Macau government will follow the policies in a similar pattern,” Ms Lao said.

“Macau has been part of China for 10 years. The relationship between the two places is getting closer and closer and the interaction is also getting strong between them,” she added.

The organisation will later deliver its suggestions to the NPC’s Macau deputies and CPPCC members.

According to vice director-general Jeff Choi Keong, 24-hour customs clearance at the Zhuhai-Macau border has been an “usual topic” in every year’s two sessions, but the demand has now become “even more prominent” due to the construction of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the development of Hengqin Island.

Mr Choi said Macau’s hotel industry may suffer losses since visitors could then choose to stay in hotels in Zhuhai which are generally cheaper than in Macau, however in a long-term it could “stimulate the economy and is a positive move overall”.

“With the facilitation of the Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Mass Rapid Transit, delta bridge and the new development in Hengqin, Macau may need the visitors from Zhuhai in the future. As Zhuhai and Macau are getting integrated, the current customs clearance hours can no longer fulfill the commuting demands,” Mr Choi said.

The implementation of CEPA has also attracted a large number of Hong Kong and Macau investors to do business and settle in the mainland, he added.

In order to achieve the goal of economic diversification in Macau, Mr Choi said it is necessary for Macau to cooperate with Zhuhai to create a ‘tourism brand’, and as such round the clock border crossing will give “tremendous convenience” to both Macau and mainland residents.

Since the living standards in Zhuhai are lower than in Macau, low-income families and retired residents may find living in this mainland city “more affordable”, he said, adding part of the single living elderly in Macau could also be relocated to Zhuhai.

“Realizing 24-hour customs clearance is a long-term positive strategy to solve the current pressure at the border, and will also be able to directly and strongly promote the growth of real estate, catering and tourism industries in Zhuhai and Macau,” Mr Choi noted.

“As long as the two governments can be well prepared regarding the research and appraisal of human resources, equipment and facilities and security problems, the 24-hour border crossing is just a matter of time,” he added.

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