Scholars’ advices for Macau’s future development

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Issue 959, Page 2
Word count: 894
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The University of Macau (UM) launched the second “Blue Book of Macao” yesterday, which advises the SAR government to make good use of its fiscal surplus, reinforce responses to public opinion and also integrate into regional cooperation.

The Annual Report on Economy and Society of Macao (2009-2010) was compiled by 36 authors, including 28 from the academic field, six from the political sector and two from the business area.

The content is divided into four main chapters – the General Report, Economy and Trade, Social Affairs, and Politics and Legal System.

The General Report, authored by one of the two editors-in-chief Professor Hao Yufan (another one is Wu Zhiliang), analyses the challenges Macau’s booming economy has brought to society and the governance abilities over the past decade.

Consisting of 12 research essays, the Economy and Trade chapter discusses the global financial crisis’ impact to Macau’s economy and the latest progress of economic diversification in Macau, regarding gaming, tourism, finance, real estate, transportation, Hengqin development, regional cooperation and foreign affairs.

The four essays in the Social Affairs chapter give a detailed introduction about the progress and problems of Macau’s healthcare, social security, ecological environment and literature creation in the past 10 years.

In addition, the Politics and Legal System chapter, which covers seven research reports, looks into the political development, legal reform and the changes in the relationship between the government and society, as well as the 2009 Chief Executive and Legislative Assembly elections, the role of the media, civic culture and political participation.

According to Prof. Hao, who is the dean of the UM Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and acting director of the Centre for Macau Studies, wrote in the “Blue Book” it can be expected that starting 2010 Macau will truly enter the stage to explore and adopt economic diversification.

However, he added that the gaming industry has a “strong exclusion effect”, which greatly minimizes other industries’ development space in Macau. Even if there is strong support from the government, “it’s hard for the convention and exhibition and cultural and creative industries to grow to the same level as the gaming sector within a short period of time”.

Thanks to the gaming industry, Macau’s public revenue soared from 15.3 billion patacas in 1999 to 51.1 billion patacas in 2008. The fiscal surplus has also skyrocketed from 2.7 billion patacas to 82.3 billion patacas, with estimation that it will go beyond 100 billion patacas in 2009.

Although the surplus provides Macau with a strong financial back up for the promotion of economic diversification, Prof. Hao said it also gives rise to the question of how the money can be spent properly.

“To change the dominant status of the gaming industry may require a breakthrough in the traditional mindsets,” he wrote.

Academic manager of the Centre for Macau Studies, Lin Guangzhi, has proposed that Macau should make use of the fiscal surplus to set up a sovereign wealth fund to be led by the SAR government to seek for favourable investment opportunities abroad and in mainland China, in order to increase the value of the surplus steadily.

In recent years sovereign wealth funds have become an important method for some countries and regions to manage wealth, Prof. Hao said.

It is estimated that the scale has jumped from around US$500 million in 1990 to US$2,000/$3,000 billion, and 22 countries and regions around the world have already set up such funds.

Prof. Hao said Macau can learn from the experiences in other places and then find out the suitable fund management approach, which “could very likely be the breakthrough for realising economic diversification in Macau”.

On the other hand, Prof. Hao urged the government to solve livelihood problems “from the root”. Despite all the measures such as the cash handout, electricity subsidy, tax exemption and healthcare vouchers, he said they just give “temporary effects” and are unable to effectively tackle social problems.

As such, the professor reminded that the Chief Executive needs to pay more attention to communications with the public.

“A valid government response to social demands doesn’t only raise the governance abilities, but also facilitate dialogues between the government and society,” he wrote.

Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On had made a commitment in his inauguration speech that he will “pay attention to public consultations and integrity building, enhance official accountability system and establish a highly efficient and clean government”.

Moreover, in order to further secure the cooperation between Macau and Zhuhai, Prof. Hao said local scholars suggested the two governments signing a Macau-Zhuhai Closer Cooperation Framework Agreement as soon as possible.

By outlining more precise development planning, cooperative targets and working mechanism, he said a consensus can be truly obtained for the integration of Macau and Zhuhai.

“Macau’s economy needs a diversified future, Macau’s prosperity needs a sound and healthy foundation, which have already become the consensus between the central government and Macau as a whole,” Prof. Hao said.

“We look forward to seeing Macau’s economy acquire more durable vitality in regional cooperation and an upgrade in Macau people’s quality of life, under the leadership of Chief Executive Chui Sai On,” he added.

The UM is going to compile the 2010-2011 “Blue Book of Macao” shortly. Prof. Hao is calling for more scholars to participate in a bid to enrich the content of the annual report and also broaden readers’ horizons.

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