Macau Opinion | Façade culture

Government announcements are making everybody’s life a little meaningless lately. In particular, they are making journalists’ lives somewhat difficult.

It is news, and the public wants to know, if the Secretary for Economy and Finance meets the CEO of a big corporation, or if the Secretary for Administration and Justice has met with their Hong Kong counterpart to discuss judicial co-operation matters.

What is not news – and not new – is the typical vagueness with which these announcements are written and the emptiness of information they convey.

More often than not, what follows the first line or first paragraph of such official announcements is a description of the attendant parts praising each other’s efforts – although we are often not clearly informed about the aims of such meetings – and that the government, or this or that department, is pursuing some understated goal of some unexplained agenda in accordance with the law.

I don’t think that anybody would expect it to be otherwise. The fact that the government is law-abiding is not a reason for self-advertising. Following the rules does not justify highlighting the government’s performance as outstanding, or judge public service provided to be above expectations or standards.

Public officials and civil servants respond to the law. That is their chief responsibility.

Announcing that things are being done by the book only reinforces a culture of façade that has been practiced in Macau over the years. If it looks good from the outside, content does not matter – as if repeatedly saying good things which do not necessarily stand true would actually make things good for real.

The problem is that it does not.

Out of respect for Macau residents and in the name of improved government performance, it would be efficient, and a bit of a breath of fresh air, if the government was willing to act a little more straightforwardly and openly. It would be one way to allow a revision of what is not working properly – public consultation serves but partly to address that matter – and actually address critical points of governance.

Hiding information or withholding it from the public eye until second order – additional information requested from the government about the contract extension of the Macau Jockey Club, just to name one, has fallen on deaf ears – damages the government’s image and weakens its credibility on a daily basis.

Pretending things are looking good makes it look bad.

*Editor-in-Chief, MNA