MB March | Hardly a global vision

By: Paulo A. Azevedo

Founder and publisher

The fact that it continues to allow labour pressures to be exerted by small associations and workers’ movements in casinos – without showing its own hand and letting everyone perceive that casinos are alone in such matters – affects the development of most of Macau’s business fabric, small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Let’s see if we explain this in a simple way so that the government can understand. Macau continues to be ‘ashamed’ of having gaming pay the bills. And the government avoids saying – much less publicising the fact – unlike other jurisdictions that know that gambling is like other industries, where good goes hand in hand with the bad. Which is why it has to work on preventing the bad aspects such as the possible addiction of players. But that should not exclude the promotion of its main activity: casinos. Like drinking or speeding, what affects negatively is excess and abuse. 

Now, feeling that the government wants them only for the money and avoids sitting at the same table except when a big new investment is launched from which high officials cannot escape – although leaving the table of honour, nevertheless, on so many other occasions before dinner is still halfway done – gaming operators feel they need to overcompensate. Like ‘feeling guilty’. As such they cannot avoid the easier temptations, like continually increasing their workers’ salaries well beyond the current rate of inflation, and by bestowing other gifts, from stock options to extra salaries as a bonus every year. Thus, creating an imbalance in society. 

Can gaming operators do it? No doubt. But they would be more responsible, from a global perspective, if they knew that they had, as their main industry, a government concerned with the general wellbeing. Not a particular one. 

What are the results of offering increases which, in my opinion, are disproportionate? Very simple: since they are impossible to replicate, they put thousands, tens of thousands of SME’s in danger who struggle on a daily basis with an immense turnover of workers, with most of them fleeing to the sanctuary of the Integrated Resorts. Not only because the increases can reach 8.5 per cent per year – much higher than the 1.23 per cent rate of inflation (numbers of 2017) applicable to all other industries’ offers – but because Macau cannot import workers although there is basically no unemployment and way more demand than supply. Adding to this problem is that old matter of absurd quota restrictions which I have already written about over and over again.  

And why does it seem the government doesn’t care about the workers’ problems when the numbers show SMEs are bleeding? Very simple: because the Administration is also a good employer, offering employment for life regardless of qualities or lack of them, 14 months’ annual salary, annual increases and more than twice the mandatory holidays on the city calendar. And all this on the taxpayer’s dollar. All of us. So it’s not difficult being a good boss. 

We hope that one day commonsense will prevail and that these policies and practices are revised before hundreds or thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises are thrown into bankruptcy due to lack of workability or the ability to cope with the social games of the city’s two main employers. 

Numbers to think about 

Speaking of doing little, here are the results you would expect: Almost no-one is satisfied with this Macau that continues to make billions – at least for some – and for the public coffers that serve little purpose because they end up not having an impact on the ordinary citizen’s quality of life. 

Visitor satisfaction regarding most of the local services and facilities declined throughout 2017, the Statistics and Census Service (DSEC) reveals. Tourists are increasingly dissatisfied with services provided by travel agencies and gaming facilities. How can anyone be happy after being ripped off with certain exorbitant hotel prices? During Chinese New Year a 2-star hotel was charging as much as MOP2,000 per night. A standard room at a 5-star hotel could reach MOP8,000. Unacceptable? To say the least. 

And then the crowds in the heart of town. Who could see anything in the middle of tens of thousands of people, pushing, being pushed? An amalgam of people venting discomfort, irritation, frustration. 

Macau people say nothing. They leave town or barely leave home. While on the streets taxi drivers – and not a few – continue to try to steal fares and to commit the most blatant illegalities. Despite the 245 taxi violations recorded during CNY, penalties are far less than the rewards of the crime of these people without morals. 

Increased penalties only for smokers or for those who park in illegal places – mostly because of the enormous lack of parking spots – inflating takings to the delight of some legislators and members of the Advisory Council. 

On the positive side, the government’s perception – it took only 15 years to reach the conclusion long dictated by commonsense – that the number of vehicles that hit the gas emissions reveal the ‘serious situation of emission of polluting gases’. 

All we need now is to wait another decade for firm measures and decisions. With a bit of luck we will have them when the new prison and Islands hospital opens.