By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The long-awaited 2010 Policy Address was finally unveiled. In addition to retaining most of the short-term livelihood measures including the cash handout and electricity subsidy schemes, Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has introduced a string of new initiatives in order to achieve economic diversification and establish a “sunshine government”, among other goals.
The Chief Executive made his debut at the Legislative Assembly yesterday to announce the policy blueprint. He will be present at the legislature again from 3pm to 6pm today to answer lawmakers’ questions.
After thoroughly reviewing the government’s current financial condition, Fernando Chui Sai On said he has decided to continue to implement the cash handout and the healthcare voucher schemes, with the distribution amounts being the same as last year.
A Macau permanent resident will receive 6,000 patacas and 10 healthcare vouchers amounting to 500 patacas, while a non-permanent resident will get 3,600 patacas but no vouchers.
He said the SAR government has ideas to gradually transfer the cash handout scheme to the long-term central saving system of the double-tier social security system.
The Social Welfare Bureau will continue to give eligible elderly citizens 5,000 patacas, and also study elderly-related schemes to ensure their quality of life after retirement.
Meanwhile, the monthly 150 pataca electricity subsidy for each residential unit will be retained, and so do the income subsidy, housing allowance for applicants on the social housing waiting list, financial aid to families in need, as well as special financial support and living allowances for three types of disadvantaged families.
In order to create a better investment environment, Fernando Chui Sai On said the SAR government will suggest adjusting housing tax and exempting admission tickets of performances, exhibitions and other entertainment events from stamp duty.
While the government was formulating measures to support and take care of disadvantaged people in Macau, he said it was aware of the problems and demands from the middle class. He said the government will “actively conduct scientific research” so as to take into consideration the middle class’ needs during the policy-making process.
The Chief Executive pledged that his government will “fully listen to public opinion and give priority to the well-being of Macau residents”.
As such, he said that the SAR government will reinforce integrity construction and efforts against corruption.
The Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) is going to step up supervision on the probity of civil servants, and also to review and revise the legal system of property declaration, such as to introduce a mechanism requiring government officials to make their property information public.
A special task force will also be set up to implement research and consultations.
In addition, the government will enhance the functions of the Commission for the Inspection of Discipline of CCAC Personnel, and set up an independent office and reception for it in order to maximize its role of inspection.
The Chief Executive said the CCAC has plans to strengthen its functions of administrative appeal, assist in raising public departments’ transparency and also encourage civil servants to establish an “administrative culture of integrity”.
In regard to the Audit Commission, he said it will further expand evaluations of public accounts, optimize value for money and special audit reports, and look into the feasibility of conducting “follow-up” audit on large-scale public projects.
Moreover, Fernando Chui Sai On revealed that the official accountability system will be introduced, in a bid to “precisely define the political, administrative and legal responsibilities of officials on all levels and form a comprehensive chain of government accountability”.
The government also plans to revise the Publishing Law and Broadcasting Act, which have been in place for 20 years, within this year hoping to “better protect freedom of the press and information”.
The Chief Executive said a policy research centre will be formed as an advisory institute to assist him in understanding public opinion and scientific policy making.
A financial reserve system is also on the 2010 agenda. Fernando Chui Sai On said the use of financial reserve will require the approval of the Legislative Assembly in the future.
As for civil servants, he said the government will initiate research on related associations’ demands and at the same time accelerate the reform of the civil service legal system.
A democratic political system is also another hot issue in society. The Chief Executive said “In response to the demands regarding the development of the political system, the SAR government will gather public opinion and strictly comply with the Macau Basic Law in carrying out related works”.
The Policy Address once again reiterated the government’s intention to control the scale and development of the gaming industry, and also to raise the industry’s competitiveness.
The Chief Executive said more efforts will be put into the prevention and treatment of problem gambling and the promotion of responsible gambling.
Meanwhile, in order to boost the local cultural and creative industries, the government has already started working on the formation of a cultural industry committee and a special department in the Cultural Affairs Bureau to coordinate the industry’s growth.
Fernando Chui Sai On said a special fund may also be set up to support local arts creation and promote exchange between Macau and overseas artists.
As for the small and medium enterprises (SME), the policy blueprint pledged that the government step up support in all aspects for those companies, such as various tax reduction measures and financing plans.
In response to the problem of insufficient human power, he said the government will accelerate the handling and approval of imported labour applications by SMEs and assist traditional industries to transform and upgrade themselves.
Yet, he stressed that management on imported labour will be reinforced by formulating related law and regulations, adding the amount of non-local workers will be adjusted based on the market demand and a deportation mechanism will be established.
Cooperation with neighbouring regions, Taiwan
The Chief Executive said the government will make full use of the Mainland and Macau Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) as a means to push forward economic diversification in Macau and ensure the city to become a “true world tourism and leisure hub and regional trade and investment service platform”.
He also said that cooperation will be focused on immigration clearance at border points, culture, education and health, green energy as well as food and water supply safety.
In regard to the relationship with Taiwan, the SAR government aims to facilitate exchange and cooperation in all areas between the two places, in which the Chief Executive said trade and investment, tourism, convention and exhibition, cultural, education and creative industries will be given priorities.
The government also has plans to provide services and convenience to Macau people who study or work in Taiwan.
Fernando Chui Sai On revealed that Taiwan-related affairs will be added into the SAR government’s routine policy areas, and a formal communication mechanism will be introduced to “promote Macau-Taiwan cooperation practically”.
Social harmony, infrastructure
The 2010 Policy Address did not miss out the construction of public housing. The Chief Executive vowed that the government is going to determine the numbers of public housing units needed in the future based on the housing demand, land supply and changes in Macau’s population.
In the meantime, he said the construction plan of 19,000 public housing units will be gradually fulfilled.
The government is also planning to enhance public housing allocation system and related regulations, as well as to introduce a waiting period for applicants and open applications on a regular basis.
Fernando Chui Sai On also mentioned about reshaping Macau into a green city, through the construction of the light rail transit and promotion of green vehicles and products, in addition to reinforcing the inspection on vehicle gas emissions.
On the other hand, a food safety centre will be formed under the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau.
Printed copies of the 2010 Policy Address can be obtained at the Government Information Centre in Rua do Campo.