OPINION-Endless lightness?

Financial reporting in Macau has never been a strong feature of the local business environment. Due to their size or areas of activity, a few companies are required to follow generally accepted accounting practices and publish their annual accounts. A brief examination of many companies’ accounts, published both in the Official Gazette and in the media, makes evident that such obligation is taken on the light side. 

There are certainly exceptions. Some firms, especially those that are listed on stock exchanges, follow more closely international good practices and generally accepted principles. But, again, that is not the case of many (the majority?) of reports published every year. 

The information on some of them is so vague that it is virtually useless. Neither financial data nor reports provide much allowing one to know precisely how they are doing, or even what they are doing. Financial transparency cannot – better said, should not – be taken as just a ritual publication of a few disjointed figures and activity reports, at times little more the garbled statements about success and commitment to future improvement.

One would expect some companies, either because they are used to operate in international environments or because they provide essential services for the SAR, to abide by proper and accepted international canons. That is the case of the operation of the light rail transit.  Past events would recommend and should bring us to expect increased transparency in this case. 

First, the project has been a terrible example of mismanagement and squandering of public money. Demands for increased rigor and clarity have only increased over the years. Second, the operator is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a significant and respected international operator. It is used, therefore, to more demanding reporting requirements. 

Indeed, the company is not to blame for the mess that came before it, and possibly much of what we will still find in the future. But even setting those matters aside, the first report, in its published form, cannot fail to disappoint.  

The financial data do not include a statement of income, and the balance sheet is poorly presented. The self-designated “Summary Report” says little.  We only have to look into the company webpages in Hong Kong and Macau to realize the chasm in terms of the information provided to the public and investors. Which begs the question: why so different standards on each shore of the delta?