Macau Business Editorial | Accountability zero

Macau will never have a system of accountability – despite the promises of the Secretary for Administration – and the administrative machine remains too opaque to present us with the simple notion of how enormous the level of corruption and administrative illegality actually is. 

From the Publisher’s Desk

By Paulo A. Azevedo | Founder and Publisher

The recent cases brought to the public’s attention – IAM division head suspected of abuse of power since 2012; the head of the Macau SAR Office delegation in Beijing also accused of abuse of power; and the always problematic Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) found to have allowed the illegal construction of an independent house in Coloane – are just a concerning sign of something that we suspect to be a dramatic tumour. 

Unless measures are taken to combat this problem more effectively, the tendency – and the natural laxity of the public machine, which is not a monopoly of Macau, and happens elsewhere – will worsen over time encouraging the confidence of offenders in the lack of ability of the competent authorities. 

Clearly not a lucky number 

The 13 continues to intrigue.  

To dazzle even, for the worst reasons. It must be one of the strangest cases in the investment world. Hundreds of millions of US dollars buried in a building which continues to fail successive opening times. 

There were investors who left – with their heads drooping, having accepted their losses – and slammed the door on their way out. Others have happily entered what seems to be a hotel, with or without casino, which continually and proudly closes its doors to the public. Despite some parties, and possibly accommodating clients in a more private way. 

The curious thing in the midst of all this is the apparent lack of interest of the Macau Government in wanting to know the details. A kind of shrug permeates that makes the mystery even more compelling and intriguing. As if it were all taboo. 

Certainly, speculation does not suit property developer South Shore Holdings Ltd., a company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. And also should not interest the local government, which should consider it a matter of honour – do not laugh, please – that business here is as transparent as in any other city that values itself. 

To tax or not to tax 

While some hotels continue to boast of their very high occupancy rates – some of which is fallacious because rooms are not used despite being reserved by gaming promoters – Macau is now struggling with how to handle its burgeoning number of tourists.  

Are 35 million visitors too many or not? 

As many discovered almost a decade ago, these 35 million would probably not be that many if infrastructure had been planned and delivered on time. But it wasn’t and there are no miracles. Ergo now we do need to face these numbers as a problem rather than as a blessing. 

We continue, however, to be embarrassed to make decisions that may not be popular and with this we continue to allow the entry of millions of tourists who bring little or nothing to the city but statistics to crow about. A situation that in the not too distant future may prove to be a time bomb. 

We must choose whether we want quantity or quality: who cares to the SAR.  

The city is tiny, resources are scarce, and there is a resident population that also has to be protected. Tourists themselves have to be protected. 

Or do you think they will be if a feeling of revulsion at such large numbers of visitors takes root here? Do you think that the quality of services and the way of receiving those who visit us will not be drastically altered? 

If this means imposing taxes or dramatically reducing those tours of tourists of doubtful quality, then let’s go ahead with the decision. This matter has to be seen in the same light as other conundrums. Like the importation of labour, for example. 

Has the government not decided to impose quotas to avoid hiring labour that could be redundant, with the intention of not penalising access to the employment of local residents? 

Well, do it also with the tourists.  

Bet on those who have more to give to the city and limit those who have little or nothing to contribute.  

For once, bet on quality.