By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The SAR government is going to increase more than MOP3.4 billion in public investment and development projects in this year’s budget plan.
Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen attended the plenary meeting at the Legislative Assembly yesterday to present the bill to amend the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget.
The amendments are needed since the budget plan announced by ex-Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah and passed in December 2009 at the legislature only included public expenditure estimates for the SAR government’s basic operations until March and the public projects already confirmed to be implemented in the first quarter of 2010.
In order to fulfil various policies and measures introduced by incumbent Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On in his 2010 Policy Address, Tam said the government needed to raise the public expenditure estimates by MOP8.45 billion.
In addition, the Secretary said “since the impact of the global financial crisis is fading away and the pace of the local economic recovery is being accelerated, the gaming tax revenues reported a more satisfactory increase than expectations over the past few months, and thus it is predicted that this year’s overall tax revenue will exceed the original forecast.”
The bill proposes to increase the special gaming tax revenue by MOP6.45 billion, from MOP 33.8 billion to MOP40.25 billion.
As a result, the overall revenue in the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget will have to be adjusted by adding MOP6.45 billion to MOP58.87 billion, whilst the overall expenditure estimate will also have to increase by MOP8.45 billion to MOP53.09 billion.
Tam said major projects that have contributed to the increase in public expenditure include MOP3.38 billion for the cash handout scheme, MOP3.44 billion for PIDDA (Administration’s Investment and Development Expenditure Plan), MOP500 million for civil servants, MOP300 million for the construction of the University of Macau’s Hengqin campus, as well as MOP160 million for the public bus services.
In response to lawmaker Jose Pereira Coutinho’s question, the Secretary stressed that the MOP500 million for civil servants did not imply a pay rise or an increase in civil servants’ allowances this year.
Of the additional MOP3.44 billion required for investment and development projects, Tam said “buildings” accounted for MOP1.15 billion, various construction MOP620 million, machinery and equipment MOP510 million, transport materials MOP320 million, housing MOP270 million, other investment MOP250 million, and also roads and bridges for MOP240 million.
Tam gave no further information regarding what the new expenditures are about specifically, but added that the government will provide lawmakers with more details when the bill is being discussed in the standing committee.
Yet, he explained that the MOP270 million for housing in PIDDA refers to the compensation to the contractor of the Fai Chi Kei Social Housing Estate. He stressed that the negotiation is still going on with the contractor but the public works department said the compensation might have to be paid this year.
Lawmaker Mak Soi Kun questioned the Secretary of this year’s implementation rate of public expenditure estimate – whether it would report “a higher or closer-to-expectation implementation rate” eventually.
In 2008 the estimate was MOP32.5 billion and the execution rate reached 93.5 percent. In 2009 the estimate was MOP43.9 billion but only MOP33.8 billion were actually used, an execution rate of nearly 77 percent.
Tam responded that the government has always strived to produce a “precise and accurate budget plan”, but due to “unexpected changes during the year” it is unlikely to achieve a 100 percent public expenditure implementation rate.
On the other hand, the bill proposes to waive the stamp duty on admission tickets of performances, exhibitions or entertainment projects.
The government earned around MOP34 million stamp duty of this kind in 2009.