By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
In order to alleviate the long-existing labour shortage problem in local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the Human Resources Office has set a target to finish processing each imported labour application in two months, the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen, announced.
In yesterday’s plenary meeting at the Legislative Assembly, a large number of lawmakers expressed concerns over the tough business environment faced by local SMEs, in particularly the lack of manpower and the “slow approval” of non-resident worker applications.
The secretary, who will continue to be at the legislature today to answer lawmakers’ questions in relation to the 2011 Economy and Finance policy, admitted that there is “a lot of room to improve” in the imported labour application procedures.
Tam said a goal has been set for the coming year that the Human Resources Office will strive to finish processing each new or renewal application and notify the employer within two months.
However, he reiterated that the import of workers will only be approved after the local human resources are being “used properly”.
“Companies have to take advantage of local workers’ background who are familiar with local culture and traditions, respect their labour rights and boost their capacities through training or other means,” he explained.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that as of September 2010, some 4,100 skilled workers have obtained residency in Macau.
Looking to the future, the secretary pointed out that the Government will have to first guide and encourage SMEs to modify their operation models in accordance to the development direction of Macau to become a world travel and leisure hub.
The idea of promoting a “small district economy” is “feasible and suits Macau’s conditions”, the secretary said.
The “souvenir street” in front of the Ruins of St. Paul’s and the “fruit street” meaning Rua de Fernão Mendes Pinto in Three Lamps district are the “successfully examples” of a “small district economy”, Tam pointed out.
“It’s very important for the SMEs to change their mindset and accept challenges.
“In old neighbourhoods the rents are cheap and some shops may then lack the motivation to innovate. If they can share the same mindset to develop their business together, I believe Macau will have a lot more successful examples of ‘small district economy’ in the future,” he added.
Gambling impact a top concern
On the other hand, Tam confirmed that to promote responsible gambling is one of the major tasks of the SAR Government next year. “It’s time to put more concern on it when the gaming industry has developed to a certain scale.”
He told lawmakers that the Government is studying measures to ban problem gamblers from entering casinos.
He also said the Government welcomes cooperation with social service organisations and the gaming operators in the implementation of a responsible gambling program.
Furthermore, Tam said the Zhuhai-Macau Cross-Border Industrial Zone, which is set to be transformed into a “cooperation zone” according to the 2011 Policy Address, may develop logistics so as to provide more business opportunities for the industry practitioners in Macau.
With regard to the MOP 212 million loan to disgraced Viva Macau airline, the secretary was reluctant to discuss the matter, citing the Government’s lawyer has already implemented the process to recover the money from the guarantor and the lawyers from the two sides are currently in “discussions”.
In response to some lawmakers’ inquiries about the reduced amount of cash handouts, the official said the Government aims to establish a long-term protection for local residents whose usual place of residence is Macau.
“The cash handout scheme in the past benefited residents who did not even live in Macau,” he added.
Moreover, Tam stressed that the present currency policy of Macau should remain, adding that to decouple the Pataca from the US dollar is not a proper decision at the moment.
Main points in the 2011 Economy and Finance policy
• Promote the MICE industry in order to upgrade Macau’s role as a service platform, expand the MICE human resources database
• Promote the commercial and trade image, and “Macau brands” and “Made in Macau” products in local and foreign markets
• Set up a Macau product display centre in the first half of 2011
• Simplify imported labour applications from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), increase transparency and approval efficiency
• Encourage SMEs to develop franchises, chain operations and brand agency business
• Through vocational training boost local human resources’ quality and quantity, establish a Macau-wide “vocational skills database”
• Review the Labour Relations Law and the Imported Labour Law
• Promote the transformation of the Zhuhai-Macau Cross-border Industrial Zone and support local companies to take part in the development of Hengqin
• Implement fiscal reserve system and enhance the monetary supervision system
• Reinforce regulations on the gaming industry and junket promoters, set up a junket database, facilitate gaming-related legislation, study the formulation of responsible gaming guidelines, promote fair and orderly competition, and control industry expansion