Locals concerned over ‘widening’ wealth gap

Saturday, July 9, 2011
Issue 1353, Page 2
Word count: 618
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

A June survey carried out by the Macao Polytechnic Institute (IPM) has found that more than one fifth of the 1,193 respondents felt their living conditions did not improve or had even got worse since the territory’s sovereignty was returned to China in late 1999.

In addition, nearly 80 percent of the Macau residents interviewed hoped that more concern could be given to the “widening gap” between the rich and poor in the future.

The One Country Two Systems Research Centre of IPM released findings of the opinion survey whose aim was to gauge how local people saw their lives under the ‘one country, two systems’ policy and their comments and expectations on particular socio-economic issues, said director Ieong Wan Chong yesterday in a press conference.

Between 20 and 23 June, 1,193 people aged 18 or above were interviewed by telephone. Almost all of the interviewees were Macau permanent or non-permanent residents and 95 percent of them were Chinese citizens. Also, 53 percent were born in mainland China.

According to the report, nearly half of the respondents said their living conditions had “notably improved” or “improved” over the past 12 years since the establishment of the Macau SAR.

Yet, around 27 percent said there were only “slight improvements”, 15.76 percent said their lives remained the same and even 5.53 percent deemed that their lives were “worse than before [the handover]”.

Although the liberalisation of the gaming industry, the resulting unprecedented growth of the economy and the sky-rocketed gross domestic product per capita in Macau indicated that the local employment situation and earnings have greatly increased over recent years, Ieong stressed that the gap between rich and poor in society was “still quite large”.

“A small proportion of the residents couldn’t enjoy the fruits of the economic growth,” said Ieong.

He also said that society, especially the government should pay more attention to the group of people who felt that their living standard had declined.

Meanwhile, it has been found that close to 80 percent of respondents hoped the Central and the SAR Governments would be more concerned about this large gap between the rich and poor.

More than 70 percent of respondents also hoped more “proactive measures” would be taken to tackle inflation and the local economy could achieve diversification.

“Overpriced property, excessive price increases not only intensify the living burdens of residents but also further widened the gap between rich and poor,” Ieong said.

“The shortcomings” of relying too heavily on the gaming industry have also “started to emerge,” the centre’s director pointed out, “promoting economic diversification is necessary”.

Furthermore, a large proportion of respondents were not very optimistic about the space for personal development in the city.

While 40 percent believed the situation was “standard”, another 22.38 percent said such space was “relatively small” and 11.15 percent said there “wasn’t much space” for career development.

Ieong said the “relatively single economic structure” in Macau has limited the types of jobs available and career prospects.

On the other hand, the survey showed that nearly 49 percent of interviewees said they were “very proud” or “relatively proud” of being a Macau SAR resident, whereas some 58 percent also felt the pride of being a Chinese citizen.

Nevertheless, slightly over 20 percent were “not satisfied” or “very unsatisfied” with the administration of the SAR Government.

“Slow progress in legal reforms, excessively high property prices, surging inflation and the government’s work efficiency could be the factors contributing to the continued growth in public discontent,” Ieong reaffirmed.

However, a majority of the interviewed residents generally recognised the success in the implementation of the policies of ‘one country, two systems’, ‘Macau people ruling Macau’ and a high degree of autonomy in Macau.

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