We often think of, perceive and refer to Macau as a place of wealth. The gaming boom has mostly created a sense of having provided more resources to local residents, in spite of also having increased living costs and household expenses.
The base salaries of civil servants, gaming dealers, banking and finance workers, and management positions in the casinos and integrated resorts, seem to be fairly reasonable for a city, of whose recent morose economy many still remember – rents in some capital cities of Europe are more expensive than here, while minimum wages are set at half of what a Macau dealer makes.
For those who had a house and managed to buy one or more when prices and conditions where still affordable to the local middle class, small fortunes are on the make. Rental prices only rarely retrocede, and when that does happen it is within a very thin margin.
Overall, life conditions have improved for many residents, many of whom have experienced material benefits fast. Migrant workers have also found better job opportunities and higher pays, although actual improvements vary depending on the category of work those immigrants are involved in.
The statistics are always making a case for Macau’s impressive economic performance. It is one of the richest cities in the world based on GDP per capita income, and a city with one of the fattest public reserves worldwide.
Walls and roofs and doors are painted in gold, literally, or just as an emulation of that wealth which is generated daily by the gaming economy.
Yet this raises two issues. Because it is dragging an incredible amount of the population under its domain, gaming, as an economic activity, is creating a legion of political alienates, people defining values by the price tag they have.
Chinese are notoriously known for their quest of material wealth. Though it is a common human feature in capitalist, so-called civilized societies, it stands out in this part of the world.
It is a not a search for happiness in the terms defined by the European modernity project. It is a call to the mission of accumulation. Imperial times and communism have undoubtedly contributed their part in prompting people – who have been deprived of nearly all – to secure all the possessions they can in a lifetime.
The other issue is the extent of inequality this extreme wealth is covering up. Elderly people occasionally begging for money in the streets or searching for food in garbage bins are scenes that one can spot from time to time around the city.
Elderly homes, poorly run and maintained, are shameful given the obscene influx of capital that circulates in this town.
The sun shines more golden for some.