By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
- Lawmakers question Galaxy recruitment fair
- MOP 10,000 in central saving accounts on July 1
- Reserve system to be launched this year
Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen yesterday faced a lot of inquiries from lawmakers regarding the chaos in last Saturday’s Galaxy recruitment fair and what specific plans the government has to secure jobs for local people.
In addition, the Secretary revealed details of the fiscal reserve system which he said will be created this year, and that the government plans to inject MOP10,000 start-up capital into each eligible Macau resident’s central saving account starting July 1 this year.
He and the other related government officials will be at the Legislative Assembly again from 3pm to 8pm today for the second day of the economy and finance policy debate.
According to Secretary Tam’s introduction, in the year 2010 the SAR government will “strictly execute the foreign labour law and other labour legislation, continue to improve imported labour applications and its handling mechanism, and review the approval procedure for imported labour”.
Besides simplifying administrative procedures, cutting down the processing time and raising the efficiency, the Secretary told the lawmakers the government will strive to enhance transparency in approving non-resident worker applications and reinforce the inspection and management.
Lawmakers Ng Kuok Cheong, Kwan Tsui Hang, Chan Meng Kam and Au Kam San then posed questions to the Secretary, asking how the government was going to make sure local gaming operators were not staging “fake recruitment fairs” for local people in order to apply for a large number of imported workers afterwards.
Galaxy Entertainment Group organised a mass recruitment drive last Saturday targeting at local construction workers for its flagship property Galaxy Macau on the Cotai Strip.
However, the situation once lost control and some applicants were pushed down and injured as around 2,000 job hopefuls raced to get an application form and an opportunity for an on-site interview. The company eventually had to extend the application deadline until today.
It was also reported that some applicants saw the Galaxy staff throw their application forms straight to the rubbish bin, thus making them doubt if the recruitment drive was just a “show” to tell the government and society Galaxy did try to hire local people before getting workers from outside of Macau.
Secretary Tam responded that as of yesterday Galaxy has received 1,993 application forms from Macau residents.
Starting tomorrow until March 28 from 9am to 6pm, the gaming operator will meet with all the applicants one by one under the inspection of the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL).
He said that the involvement of DSAL personnel is to ensure the recruitment process can be conducted in a “fair, impartial and justified” condition.
In a DSAL statement issued last night, the bureau said that it will never accept “fake recruitment attempt” and must handle it in line with law if such kind of incident is found.
The statement also said that some application forms were from non-local residents. The DSAL reiterated that no non-Macau residents are to be allowed to participate in the job interviews.
Despite Macau’s latest unemployment rate was reported at 3.1 percent, the Secretary told the lawmakers he acknowledged the poor employment condition in the construction industry.
He hoped construction workers could maintain patience in recruitment fairs, adding that the government must “do well in supervision work”.
In response to the two recent cases of unlawful imported labour applications, the Secretary said the government has been aware of the irregularities and thus the DSAL and the Human Resources Office have become more alert for suspected cases.
Between 2008 and 2009, the government had transferred nearly 60 applications to the Judiciary Police, Public Security Police or the Public Prosecutions Office for investigations.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers questioned the Secretary into gaming operators’ need to import non-local workers, since their recruitment events usually received very strong responses from locals.
According to Secretary Tam, “small and medium enterprises [SMEs] are always worried when gaming companies are hiring people, because they’re afraid their staff will change jobs”.
He said that it was “inevitable” to approve gaming operators’ imported labour applications in the period of booming development, or otherwise “SMEs might face even more difficulties in getting human resources”.
He reiterated that, however, “certainly in the next couple of years the gaming industry will not develop so rapidly as like before”.
In 2009, among the 31,000 companies in Macau, around 0.9 percent employed 100 workers or above, while more than 99 percent hired less than 100 staff.
Also, 84 percent or some 26,000 companies only had one to four employees.
Central saving system
Lawmaker Ho Ion Sang was concerned about when the government can launch the double-tier social security system, which is formed by the Social Security Fund and a non-mandatory central saving system.
The bill to revise the Social Security Fund (FSS) is currently in discussions at the Legislative Assembly, and Secretary Tam said the government will “accelerate the process” after the bill is passed.
As for the second-tier concerning the central saving system, he revealed that in the first quarter of this year the government has completed reviewing all permanent residents’ eligibility. In early April the FSS will begin to mail notifications to the residents who are qualified to have a central saving account opened for them.
Since there are some hundreds of thousands of eligible residents, the Secretary said the mailing is expected to take a few months to complete until early June.
On July 1, he said that the government will start to inject MOP10,000 as start-up capital into each of the accounts. Account holders at 65 years old or above will be allowed to withdraw the money immediately.
The Secretary also said that the government may look into changing the central saving system into mandatory after a period of operation.
Fiscal reserve, 2009 GDP
Francis Tam Pak Yuen announced that the long-awaited fiscal reserve system will be set up this year, to be managed by the Monetary Authority.
The SAR reserve fund and the budget surplus accumulated all over the years will be used to establish the system.
The Secretary said the system is formed by two parts – a basic reserve and an excess reserve. Of which, the basic reserve will be able to support the government expenditure for no less than 12 months, and the rest of the fund will be kept in the excess reserve.
He added that the basic reserve can only be used when the government experiences “serious financial difficulties” and the excess reserve has already been used up. Yet, the use of fiscal reserve must have to be approved by the Legislative Assembly.
On the other hand, Secretary Tam disclosed that the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 2009 reported a 1.3 percent growth compared to 2008.
Between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first half of 2009, Macau GDP saw a negative growth in three consecutive quarters. It dropped 13.6 percent from January to June last year.
Yet, in the third quarter of 2009 the GDP picked up a 8.2 percent increase and overall it still managed to rise 1.3 percent over the previous year, which the Secretary said was “better than the expectation in the beginning of the year”.
Looking at the prospect of 2010, Secretary Tam said Macau economy has the possibility to maintain the recovery trend. “The gaming and tourism and related industries will grow steadily, private investment and consumption demand will gradually increase, unemployment rate may be kept at a relatively low level and small and medium enterprises’ operation pressure will be eased after the financial crisis.”
However, he reminded that following the economic recovery and development as well as the impact of imported inflation factors, Macau’s inflation problem will get more prominent in the days to come.
Secretary Tam told the lawmakers the bill to ban people under the age of 21 to enter or work in casinos has entered the legislative process and is under discussions in the Executive Council.
Existing casino workers below 21 years old will be given a three-year transition period.
Regarding the removal of slot machine venues from residential areas, he said that regulations are being formulated. Since the end of 2007, the SAR government did not approve any applications for new slot machine establishments or betting branches, he added.
Besides, the Secretary said the government will pay more attention and efforts to prevent irregularities in the gaming industry, promote responsible gambling, monitor junket operators as well as carry out effective supervision on gaming concessionaires’ finance status and how they’re fulfilling their contracts.
Of which, the first round of audit will be implemented on the gaming operators after the standards on auditing concerning the basic procedures of internal control are promulgated, he said.