Ilha Verde’s shack compensation ‘not enough’: social workers

Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Issue 1203, Page 3
Word count: 844
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

Professionals from the social work field believe that the resettlement compensation amounts for the Ilha Verde shack residents were insufficient and should have been decided by the Macau Government rather than the developer.

Secretary-General of Caritas Macau, Paul Pun Chi Meng, told the Macau Daily Times the January 3 deadline imposed by the Government on the developer – Pak Lei Sun Development – to clear all the shacks in the neighbourhood was not “appropriate”, since it was around the Christmas and New Year periods and thus intensified the “sadness” of the residents whose homes were demolished.

Pun also questioned why only residents of shacks that were registered back in 1991 or 1993 could be arranged to purchase affordable housing or rent social housing.

“The Government gave no advance alert to the residents that they could only move into the shacks after registering with the Housing Bureau,” he said.

The compensation given to residents who were not eligible to be resettled in public housing reportedly ranged from around MOP 10,000 to MOP 60,000.

A lot of residents had complained that the amounts were “unreasonable” and thus insisted on not allowing the developer to demolish their homes.

Pun said it became a “tug of war” between the developer and the residents, who respectively wanted to compensate less and be compensated more.

“The amounts should have been decided by the Government so that there wouldn’t be too much space and time for the two sides to argue. The residents might think the more they resisted the more compensation they would get,” the veteran social service worker pointed out.

Nevertheless, he deemed that the cash compensation was not able to help the residents much to search for a new home especially in times when prices of almost everything have continued to go up.

For the disadvantaged residents who are living in poverty, Pun said the Government should have been more flexible and given them priority to rent social housing.

He agreed that the demolition has had “a lot of impact” on the households, who might have “high expectations and think that the longer their shacks could be left standing the more money they would receive, or they could move into social housing units”.

“The Government and the residents both are to blame. The residents knew their shacks weren’t registered and they didn’t have the bargaining power, but it’s also exactly why the Government should have helped them negotiate with the developer,” Pun stressed.

A number of conflicts between the residents and the developer and even an alleged attack on three men living in the neighbourhood were reported during the demolition.

Despite the developer’s authority to clear the shacks, he argued that the Macau Government still had the responsibility to ensure the people’s safety on the public land.

Preparation work missing

Meanwhile, social work professor of the Polytechnic Institute and political commentator Larry So Man Yum said he hopes the entire incident could be a lesson for the Macau Government.

So believed that if a team of community workers from a local non-governmental organisation was sent to the Ilha Verde Neighbourhood some time before the demolition began to explain to the residents about the compensation arrangement and the demolition procedures, “a lot of unnecessary controversies and conflicts would have been prevented”.

The professor also questioned the Government’s decision to assign a developer to carry out the land clearance work, which he also believed should have been done by the Government itself.

In addition, So said the cash compensation standards were not made transparent and the amounts were below satisfaction.

He added that it was necessary to give the Government the role of mediator which would be the one to confirm the compensation amounts at last.

The entire demolition and how the Government had responded to the residents showed a “lack of humanity”, according to So.

“The idea of a ‘people-oriented’ government is still very far away in Macau,” he told the MDT.

‘Difficult to define’

While director of the General Union of the Neighbourhood Associations (UGAMM), Io Hong Meng, said the Government could have performed better during the demolition, he reminded that it was the developer’s responsibility to clear the land.

Io said the UGAMM has always insisted that the developer must offer “reasonable” compensation through negotiations with residents, instead of using other means to “force” the residents to move out of the site.

Yet, he told the MDT it is “difficult to define” whether compensation is reasonable as the “standards and demands vary between different people”.

In response to some residents’ claims that the developer demolished their shacks without permission, Io said it has to be left for the Government to investigate such claims.

Nevertheless, he said the developer should have carried out the demolition “more carefully” so that only shacks which were assured to have completed the compensation deal could be destroyed.

President of the Housing Bureau Tam Kuong Man said on Monday that complaints were mostly made by the residents who were not happy with the compensation amounts, and the developer was “constantly” getting information from the households.

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