By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The Government’s decision to reduce the cash handout amounts in 2011 is described by former Legislative Assembly president Susana Chou as “very unwise”, especially in times when inflation is climbing in Macau and civil servants are going to get a pay rise.
According to her blog post titled “Scientific decision” and dated November 24, Chou reiterated that she “is not in favour” of the cash handout scheme as she believes that Macau people could enjoy a bigger benefit if the money was spent on building hospitals or improving transportation.
However, she added that she agrees that the cash handouts can, to a certain extent, help enhance the lives of the poor and low-income families.
“Macau has been implementing this policy since 2007. Currently the inflation is soaring, commodity prices and rents continue to rise, the Macau Government’s revenue keeps on increasing, certainly Macau people would expect the more cash handouts the better,” Chou wrote.
“This time the Macau Government on one hand significantly increases civil servants’ wages, on the other hand has also decided to cut the cash handouts from MOP 6,000 per year to MOP 4,000, from my point of view [the Government] didn’t comprehend the actual situation of Macau and civilians’ psychological state, [the reduction] is a very unwise action,” she added.
Chou said she “originally” supported the gradual transfer of the cash handout scheme to the central provident fund, but the Government failed to promote the details and advantages of the fund to local people and therefore the move “cannot be regarded as a scientific decision”.
However, she pointed out that under the current social situation, even if locals are familiar with the policy, they, particularly the disadvantaged groups, will only be “concerned the most about how to deal with their current living needs daily”, and the Government’s intention to protect their retired lives is “too far away” for them at the moment.
In addition, Chou said the 2011 Policy Address lacks ideas and measures to suppress inflation and formulate a clear housing policy, which “should be the two most important tasks of the Government next year”.
“It’s time for some policies, such as housing, population, urban planning and transportation, to formulate short-, mid- and long-term plans,” she stressed.
According to Chou, the current population of Macau is no longer enough to deal with the demand of sustainable development. “Talents are the most important resources for society, without people nothing can be done.”
She also urged the Government to step up effort to build public housing and learn from Singapore in order to help the middle class purchase property and aid the disadvantaged groups to solve their housing problems.
The string of livelihood measures to be rolled out in 2011 are “appropriate and necessary” but Chou said the interests and demands of the middle class have been overlooked.
The Government has also proposed a five percent pay rise for all civil servants, in addition to the recent announcement to increase their housing allowances and other kinds of allowances next year.
Yet, Chou said except gaming enterprises that have the financial capability to follow the Government’s action, no other employers are able to offer the same level of pay rise to their employees.
“It’s apparent that the Government did not consider taking care of the other middle class’ interests at the same time […] The Government can’t overlook the interests of Macau residents in other sectors but [has to] distribute social wealth reasonably,” she added.