Breeding policies?

Macau is currently discussing its first Five-Year Plan. The draft document has been submitted for public consultation and, inescapably, is the subject of much talk and commentary. At first sight, this relatively long document does not distinguish itself neatly from the yearly Policy Address. Somehow, it looks like an extended version, no less wordy and vague in many of its statements. But the purpose here is not to engage in a discussion about the style and content of the document, or its relationship with the annual Budget and Policy Address debate. We must note that it contains, at least and beyond doubt, one statement that is indeed a novelty – in fact, a major one. We can find it close to the bottom of page 55 in the Portuguese version. That is the section dealing with demographic concerns and, namely, an aging population. There, the stated aim is to ‘develop global demographic strategies’, including some focusing on birth incentives. Among these, we find that the government will ‘incentivize couples to have more children applying the concept of eugenics’! That’s right: it says Macau wants to establish eugenics as the guiding principle to promote population growth! The first question that comes to mind is: do they know, understand, what they are saying? The charitable answer would be, possibly not! Probably that’s just a bad translation. But that is hard to accept. We are dealing with an official document published in one of the official languages. Taking that view would mean that among those who wrote, translated, commented, revised and gave the green light for publication nobody thought the issue was significant and controversial – or understood what it meant. It would be just a case of ignorance, albeit an outstanding one. That’s frightening! It just happens that the alternative explanation is even more so! That is, we would have to accept that the government of Macau wants to set eugenics as a guiding light for demographic policy or, at least, that some of its members and advisors think it would be a good idea. In that case, an urgent elucidation is needed. Leaving aside no lesser matters of compatibility with internal laws and international covenants, who is going to define the specific objectives, standards, and tools of such a policy? The possibilities are just too scary to contemplate. So I pray for the first alternative: nobody truly understood or realised the implications. But that is only marginally reassuring.