Macau Business Editorial | Waste of time

What the Secretary for Public Administration did recently in the Legislative Assembly (AL) served Macau poorly. We all suspect corruption in the local Administration is vertiginous. And we sense it because there are countless signs, even though the CCAC continues to examine smaller fish. Sharks, when the scent of an investigation begins, have time to dissolve assets, transfer resources and slowly leave the scene.  

From the Publisher’s Desk

By Paulo A. Azevedo | Founder and Publisher

An early retirement, a good-bye for health or even family reasons. While others, with matters more pressing, hurriedly leave the MSAR and for good in search of greener pastures. To places like Portugal. Scenarios that fortunately are not widespread. Honest individuals will leave, too, for legitimate reasons. Because they cannot agree with the system and are unable to overcome it, opting for a quality of life that a quiet conscience provides them with despite the hit to the pocket. We would like to think that in spite of everything the latter are in the majority. But if they were, the system would change. So . . . 

Sonia Chan, the Secretary for responsibilities and power to ‘cure’ the biggest cancer of any Administration has demonstrated “openness” in the AL to the possibility of instituting a special council for discipline pertaining to public servants. But soon after stated that it would be “complicated”. 

Ah, no doubt about it. It will be very complicated indeed. Especially without the necessary political will. And there is no political will because if there were investigations worthy of that name a world of problems would await discovery . . . 

Adopting the most insightful of phrases of the Secretary of the Administration we learn: “Each manager has the responsibility to supervise his/her subordinates”. 

My dear Secretary, believe what we tell you – even though you know for sure that you know it well: the problem – the big problem – is not the frontline staff. Who is trying to divert a minor civil servant with limited power from the path of honesty? Maybe someone who needs a little favour? It is the great favours and the biggest dishonest deals that have to be eliminated first. And these are not decided by subordinates. 

But thanks for the talk. The position of the government and yours is clear, although we already knew it. It’s for the annals of history. It will not do any good now but will explain to future generations why Macau has continued on the path of opacity. 

Good wishes 

Daisy Ho agrees with what I’ve been espousing for many years. At G2E Asia, a gaming show here, the Chairman and Executive Director of SJM Holdings Limited was very clear.  

“The six important tasks for Macau tourism and leisure are to enhance local infrastructure, increase lodging capacity, add more non-gaming attractions, develop local human resources to keep up with leadership opportunities, promote a green economy in tourism, avoid over-tourism and move the customer base up-market”. 

Some of these tasks have been addressed but others lag behind. 

Ms. Ho didn’t say it, and we all know why, but I don’t mind saying it for her, risking having her share again opinions that have long belonged in the public domain. Well, maybe not so public since some government thinkers continue to pretend planning is not needed; work can be done next year, and all is well because we love the Motherland . . . 

But let’s add some numbers to these thoughts, so we will not be judged by writing unsubstantiated opinions. 

Year after year, the government calculates incredibly low income and never spends the small budget allocated in the Public Investment Plan (PIDDA). 

Not surprisingly, The Financial Services Bureau (DSF) reveals that the MSAR recorded a budget surplus of MOP29 billion (US$3.5 billion) between January and April, a value already 60 per cent higher than that estimated for the entire year. Wow! I know who is not going to win the Nobel Prize for Economics this year. Again. 

Also, the amount of expenses incurred by the government in the first four months, was 19.5 per cent lower than in the year prior, some MOP16.3 billion. 

The PIDDA, which represents the largest expense at MOP994.5 million, was 81 per cent lower than that expended in the same period last year. 

Let’s add more info . . . just in case you remain unconvinced. 

The Follow-up Committee for Public Finance of the Legislative Assembly (AL) recently revealed that currently 52 public projects are posting zero progress. 

So folks, forget it. It’s in Macau’s official DNA. Make money, stack it somewhere – while allowing some donations and contributions to the other side of the border plus quarterly subsidies to the usual suspects – and avoid spending on infrastructure and projects that could make Macau an example worldwide (that the Motherland could be proud of). And when a decision is made to build something, count on never ending delays, excuses and, of course, over-budget. Way, way over-budget. 

Do we need research for this? 

CSG Research has found that visitors to Macau arriving via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) spent on average 32 per cent more than visitors using the sea ports. Amazing findings. 

If you consider that the people using the ferries are – most of them – Hong Kong residents that either come and play or commute daily to work here and the ones using the bridge are tourists rather than the above – because the bridge does not serve Hong Kong but the airport in particular – voila! 

I sincerely hope that this research was not paid for from Macau’s coffers like so many others that are of absolutely no interest whatsoever.