Looking away

Few people will dispute that Macau has a growth problem. Even in the midst of a gambling ‘recession’, the community has to deal with two major issues associated with that sector’s growth and its effects on economic and urban development. The issues I have in mind are building construction, for its various purposes, and transportation, to accommodate both residents and visitors’ needs. They may seem less pressing in the present context, and their extended presence on the public agenda may create some fatigue in our minds and lessen our focus on them. We may even come to feel somehow that they are not so important anymore.
However, they are critical for the future development of the city and the wellbeing of the community, something that will become again quite visible as soon as a new growth regime sets in and most of the buildings under construction or planned come to fruition. However little public debate there is about their role and impact in the organisation of the urban space; or the effects on the movement of people and goods within the city and between it and the neighbouring regions.
Take the bridge, for instance. Leave aside the fact that its economic case for Macau was never fully developed. Its construction still looks less interesting than some plausible alternatives, but that is mostly part of history now. The fact is that the bridge will land next to the densest areas of the city, and it remains unclear how it will fit with the local road network and how it will impact the local traffic flows. Nonetheless, the conditions of access and transit seem to be a matter of debate only in Hong Kong.
Then look at the land reclamation projects, seemingly perceived as the only viable strategy for accommodating the urban sprawl. For years, we have been talking about an always-postponed blueprint for urban development. Its absence weakens the coherence of ongoing building actions and permits, impacts the future choices available to us and delays necessary decisions.
Similar questions could be raised about other issues: notably, the “I’m almost there” ferry terminal in Taipa or the “one day I will be there” light rail network in Taipa. (The latter Macau-side branch is another subject altogether, which could be forgotten altogether with likely benefits for everyone.) In a sense, we have too many elephants in the room. Not looking at them does not change the fact that they are there.