By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Macau SAR Government plans to spend at least MOP 13.2 billion on education, healthcare and other social livelihood measures in 2011, accounting for around 22.9 percent of the estimated total public expenditure, the latest Policy Address has revealed.
The budget will increase by MOP 4.8 billion when compared to 2010.
Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On has also announced at the Legislative Assembly yesterday that each Macau permanent resident and non-permanent resident will receive respectively MOP 4,000 and MOP 2,400 next year, a reduction from MOP 6,000 and MOP 3,600 that was dispersed in the third round of the cash handout scheme earlier this year.
Following up on his 2010 policy blueprint promise that the cash handout measure would eventually be integrated into the central saving system, the second level of the double-tier social security system, the Chief Executive said the Government suggests injecting MOP 6,000 into each of the central saving accounts in 2011.
Only permanent residents of Macau are eligible to take part in the central saving system.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that all the tax cuts, healthcare voucher, income subsidy, rental allowance, electricity subsidy and school textbook assistance schemes as well as the age pensions will be retained in 2011 with the amounts basically remaining unchanged.
However the latest Policy Address proposes raising the professional tax allowance from MOP 95,000 to MOP 144,000.
It is estimated that the continued implementation of the various tax exemptions will see the public revenue drop by MOP 1.4 billion in 2011.
A new tax allowance with an upper limit of MOP60,000 is also proposed for the use of green cars.
In order to encourage lifelong learning in society, the Government intends to launch a development program aiming to offer a maximum sponsorship of MOP 5,000 for a period of three years for each local resident aged 15 or above. The budget for this project is estimated at MOP 500 million.
Furthermore, the Chief Executive has announced that a MOP 100 million “Environmental and Energy Conservation Fund” will be established to help small and medium sized enterprises and social organisations upgrade their facilities or equipments so as to improve Macau’s air quality and conserve more electricity and water.
A new initiative to boost economic diversification rolled out in the Policy Address is the creation of a night market mainly selling local souvenirs at the Sai Van Lake Square.
With regard to human resources, the Chief Executive has pledged that it will continue to reinforce vocational training targeting workers of different age levels. A review is planned of the Labour Relations Law that has been in place for nearly two years in order to “mediate conflicts between employers and employees and constitute a harmonious society”.
It has also been revealed that the Government plans to extend the higher education human resources database to Macau students who go to study in mainland China or abroad, in a bid to effectively analyse and forecast the distribution of Macau talents in the future.
One of the primary concerns among the public is the Government’s housing policy and the Policy Address does not introduce any new plans or measures in the year ahead.
However, it is confirmed that the Government has decided to discontinue the credit guarantee scheme and the loan interest subsidy scheme for first time home buyers after the schemes expire at the end of June this year.
On the other hand, although the Chief Executive has promised in his last policy blueprint that the public consultation for a democratic political regime will be launched, no specific details or updates are disclosed in the 2011 address.
Civil servants get pay rise
After the amount of each salary point which is used to calculate the wages of civil servants increased from MOP 56 to MOP 59 in 2008, the Chief Executive has announced that in 2011 a pay rise to MOP 62 per salary point will be proposed.
A central recruitment and promotion mechanism is another initiative that the Government would like to implement in the civil service in 2011.
With regard to the 2011 Budget Plan, it is estimated that the total revenue will reach MOP 79.61 billion, a significant jump of over 50 percent when compared to that of 2010.
Of which, direct gaming tax is forecasted at MOP 62.53 billion.
The estimates of the total public expenditure are MOP 57.47 billion, representing a fiscal surplus of MOP 22.14 billion at the end of 2011.
The budget for public investment plans (PIDDA) is predicted at MOP 11.37 billion, up from MOP 9.86 billion registered in 2010.
However, it was reported that in the first nine months of 2010, only MOP 2.03 billion out of the PIDDA budget was spent, indicating an execution rate of just 20.6 percent.
The Chief Executive will be present at the Legislative Assembly from 3 pm to 6 pm today to answer questions regarding the Policy Address from lawmakers.
Main points in next year’s policies
Administrative and Justice:
Pension Fund to be transferred to under the Secretary for Administrative and Justice
Law Reform Office and International Law Office to be merged and responsible for legislative planning and coordination
A five percent pay rise for civil servants
Economy and Finance:
Creation of a database targetted at junket promoters and their associates
To enhance gaming-related laws and regulations, and promote responsible gambling
To audit the execution of the “minimum requirements for internal control” in casinos
To transform the Cross-Border Industrial Zone to a Cross-Border Cooperation Zone
Installation of police vehicle positioning system
To upgrade automated passenger clearance systems at various borders
Improve internal management and strengthen disciplines
Social Affairs and Culture:
A 10-year development plan for the public healthcare system
To create a more extensive higher education human resources database
To revise regulations concerning travel agencies and tour guides, hotels and food and beverage establishments
Transport and Public Works:
Relocation of the driving training site to a permanent location
Formulation of a overall development planning for the airport
Creation of a MOP 100 million Environmental and Energy Conservation Fund
Tax allowance to encourage the use of green cars
Feeling the pulse of lawmakers
Chan Chak Mo: Night market needs detailed planning
“The success of the night market in Sai Van depends on who the organiser is and his/her financial ability and management style, among others. I hope the set up will be ‘prettier’ and more complete than that of the Food Festival, such as having air conditioning in summer and seats both inside and outside of the market. It’s not that easy and needs to have a thorough planning if [the Government] wants to attract tourists and packaged tours to the market, or otherwise it may end like the few bars alongside the Nam Van Lake. There are many examples that Macau can study such as in Osaka, Singapore or Taiwan. Human resources are always a problem but having a night market should be okay.”
Ho Ion Sang: It overlooks what people want
“I think this Policy Address lacks surprises and creativity. Not enough attention is given to issues that residents are concerned about the most such as the public housing construction progress, to suppress property speculation and inflation and also environmental protection. No major breakthrough has been seen in the promotion of a sunshine government. There are still no effective ways to improve civil servants’ morale and awareness.
The revision and legislative work of the Land Law, Urban Planning Law, Old Neighbourhood Renewal Legal System, Environmental Framework Act and the Cultural Heritage Protection Law is still progressing slowly. All these have affected the basic positioning of tourism and will create long-term adverse impact in the future development if the problems cannot be solved soon.
Although the professional tax allowance is to be raised, the Government does not have any measures to help the middle and low income groups and the sandwich class to overcome the soaring inflation.”
Jose Pereira Coutinho: Policy Address barely passes
“I can only give 50 points to the Policy Address. How can the officials rate their own performance? The commission to handle complaints from civil servants needs to be formed by individuals outside of the civil service. With regard to the pay rise, I hope that it can be institutionalised. I don’t want to see the Government only introduce a pay rise when the Chief Executive wants to gain trust from civil servants. I hope it can be done fairly, impartially and scientifically. If in the next half year inflation continues to rise and Renminbi continues to appreciate, the salary [of civil servants] should be adjusted again. But if it doesn’t happen in the next three years, then it’s okay for the Government to retain the salary level. If the civil servants have no idea when their salaries will be adjusted, their morale must remain low. I hope the amount can be increased further to over MOP 62 because the junior civil servants can only get a few hundreds more.”
Kwan Tsui Hang: Housing problems not addressed
“The Policy Address says the Government will study the issue of how to assist residents to buy their first home and I hope that it can be done as soon as possible and the measures rolled out must have to be effective. The Government has to promise that it will help first-time home buyers who aren’t eligible to apply for public housing.
“[The Policy Address] has responded to some public demands but the replies are not very satisfactory and effective including the issue of budget management and as I’ve just said, how to solve the housing problems of first-time home buyers. But it’s the first time that I saw the Policy Address talk more about regional cooperation and work plans of different public departments. It is advantageous for society and the Legislative Assembly to monitor [the performance of the Government]. Overall speaking I think this policy blueprint has improved when compared to the last one, but many policies still remain on the ‘research stage’ and don’t indicate a specific date for implementation.”
Ng Kuok Cheong: Elderly welfare ‘shrunk’
“The Government cuts the cash handout amount and the central saving injection [from MOP 10,000 to MOP 6,000] but at the same time doesn’t raise the age pensions, it’s ridiculous. It’s doesn’t matter for the young ones but the elderly relies on this money a lot. Macau’s public revenue is going to soar to nearly MOP 80 billion and the civil servants can also get a pay rise, but the Government didn’t explain why the cash handout and central saving injection amounts need to be reduced. The Policy Address remains the same old style and has a lot of problems that need to be looked at.”
Jose Chui Sai Peng: Happy with Policy Address
“I’m satisfied with the Policy Address which has included everything that I wished to see. The reduction of the cash handout amounts is an adjustment in the Government’s strategies. The most important thing is that residents will have enough protection and money to spend after they retire. It’s not about whether or not you’ve the money to spend now. After the Government hands out the cash it will be gone so soon, but if it is injected into the central saving account then it’ll be good for the residents in a long-run.”