EDITORIAL – Rebalancing

Macau Business Editorial | January 2022 | By José Carlos Matias – Director

Macau’s recently issued Second Five-year Plan on Economic and Social Development (2021–2025) is a worth reading 100-page (in its Portuguese version) blueprint that signals the city’s overall direction. As expected, it elaborates on the paramount importance of developing adequate tools to bring about Macau’s long-sought and much-touted economic diversification and its further integration and participation in broader regional, national and global strategies – namely the joint development of Hengqin, the realization of the Greater Bay Area, and Macau’s supporting roles in the Portuguese-Speaking Countries platform and Belt and Road Initiative.

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On the domestic front, the plan also maps out improvements to livelihoods, well-being and public governance. Together, the points raised, the aims it sets out and the vision it reveals indicate steady progress on a clear path and deserve constructive and proactive social engagement.

Less conspicuous, perhaps, but certainly noteworthy is a line in the chapter on improving the system of governance based on the rule of law, in which the Government pledges, in accordance with the law, to guarantee freedom of the press, freedom of edition and freedom of expression, enhancing the public opinion’s capacity for criticism, suggestion and monitoring. Interestingly, there was no such reference in the previous (the SAR’s First) Five-year Plan.

Welcome as this reiteration of the Government’s commitment to these highly cherished values is, one can’t help but notice the recent shrinking of the public sphere and a narrowing of the effective practice of some of the above-mentioned freedoms, rights and guarantees, particularly over the past year. This is a trend not exclusive to Macau – it is unfortunately rather a global phenomenon – and surely both pandemic and external factors are at play. However, a reasonable number of people – many of whom tend to stay away from publicly expressing their views – are struck by the disproportionality of this trend here and worried about the resulting situations.

This problem should not be underestimated, or cast aside through indulgence in whataboutism. Atrophy of the public sphere – in the face of real and perceived constraints – has an adverse, knock-on effect not just on individual rights but also on overall governance and on sound conditions for a creative and innovative ecosystem. This city’s tolerance, inclusivity and plurality are points of pride for many locals. Nurturing those assets is key. Hopefully, the Government’s commitment can be taken at face value. Why else would the reiteration of such a pledge be added to the new Five-year Plan?

In the chips

Among the key aims singled out in the new Five-year Plan is development of a robust high-tech scene, and though we’re arguably still at an early stage in that journey, it’s important to recognize successes along the way and share inspiring stories.

It has gone relatively unnoticed but merits resounding applause: Macau is home to world-class expertise in the field of microelectronics thanks to a decades-long nurturing of talents, driven primarily by the University of Macau. As recounted in this edition of Macau Business, a local semiconductor design firmisnow dedicated to assisting China in the production of its own microchips. It’s one of a growing number of tech start-ups rising to the challenge, adding value and making the most of the mutually beneficial Macau–Hengqin dynamic.