By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen said the MOP 212 million loan made to Viva Macau in 2008 had at least saved the airline from collapse during the global financial crisis, which in turn avoided a massive blow to Macau’s economic environment and local people’s confidence.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of a heritage travel expo yesterday, Tam stressed that the Government will continue to assist Viva Macau’s creditors, including the consumers, as far as the law permits.
In August the Economic Services Bureau officially entrusted a lawyer to recover the loan made to Viva Macau.
Asked whether the Government is confident it will get back the money, the secretary said it depends on how the legal proceedings go, but added that besides the company, the Government will also try to claim back the loan from the guarantor or the guarantor shareholder based on the loan agreement.
He said it is hard to talk about the specific situation at the moment, but he stressed that the Government will adopt all legal means available in order to protect the public funds.
In 2008 the SAR Government decided to support the aviation industry as it was going through a tough time as a result of the global financial crisis.
“In order to maintain stability in society and protect employment, we first had to ensure economic stability and secure investors’ confidence in Macau’s future prospects,” Tam said.
Therefore the financial aid to Air Macau and Viva Macau “actually also included support to Macau’s tourism industry, which is fundamental to the local economy,” he added.
According to the secretary, the MOP 212 million loan helped secure 10 percent of the passenger volume of the Macau airport.
“Although Viva Macau was a relatively small company in comparison with Air Macau, its 10 percent passenger volume was particularly important to Macau’s tourism in times of an economic downturn,” he said.
“If any of the large-scale companies that played an influential role to Macau’s economy was shut down at the time, it would cause a dramatic adverse influence on the entire economic environment and also local people’s confidence in the economic prospects,” he stressed.
Hence, the secretary pointed out that Viva Macau’s collapse at this time of the year has caused a “much smaller impact” on Macau as a whole.
Air Macau, in contrast, had survived the financial crisis thanks to the loan and has started to report positive performance this year.
“It proves that the Government’s support in 2008 was successful. If we need to shoulder the liability of having helped Viva Macau, then shouldn’t we be awarded for having helped Air Macau?” Tam told reporters.
Gaming revenue to ‘narrow down’
Macau’s gaming revenue as of the end of August has soared above 60 percent when compared to the same period of 2009.
Yet the secretary said it is estimated that in the next three months the growth will narrow down over the same period of 2009, since in the fourth quarter of 2009 increase in the revenue has already resumed.
“We believe that the growth for the whole year of 2010 may not be as much as 60 percent reported in the first eight months of this year,” Tam said.
“The [previous] forecast of 30 percent…is pragmatic,” he added.
The 3rd International Tourism and World Heritage Travel Expo opened yesterday at The Venetian Macau.
The expo is open to the public for free and will last until tomorrow.