More policies needed to assist local workers and attract tourists – Legislators

As the Legislative Assembly (AL) returned to work today (Friday), legislators asked the Macau SAR government for more policies to assist local workers suffering from the pandemic impact in the local economy and more measures to attract tourists to the city.

The national day holiday period reported a total of 153,600 visitor arrivals, with a daily average of 19,538, an 86 per cent year-on-year drop, numbers that fell short of previous predictions of a quick recovery after the issuing of tourist visas for Chinese residents was resumed in September.

“Despite the increase in the flow of people during the golden week, turnover only recovered 20 per cent, much worse than expected. According to some researchers, full recovery of Macau’s economy in the short term, so the various sectors of activity will have to go through a long period of difficulties,” legislator Zheng Anting stated.

“The Government should continue with the wealth partaking scheme and consumer cards, to relieve pressure from residents and stimulate domestic consumption, stabilizing the local market and reducing inflation.”

The International Monetary Fund also recently worsened its outlook estimates for the Macau economy in 2020 and is now predicting a 53.5 per cent drop in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for this year, together with a 1.7 per cent inflation rate and a 2.3 per cent unemployment rate.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has also revealed that another proposed amendment will likely be made to 2020 government budget so as to add an extra MOP20 billion (US$2.5 billion) from local financial reserves to balance the budget in the face of reducing public income from gaming taxes.

Local gross gaming revenues have dropped by 82.5 per cent year-on-year to some MOP38.6 billion between January and September.

Meanwhile, the Macau SAR government has collected a total of MOP22.8 billion in gaming taxes between January and August, less 70.1 per cent than in the same period last year.

However, the CE has vowed that a proposed 10 per cent cut in public administration expenses for next year will not reduce the expenses necessary for the well-being of the population, such as the annual cash handout, but admitted the scheme could suffer minor changes.

Citing a recent Federation of Macau Labour Associations (FAOM) survey, legislator Lei Chan U stated that 23 per cent of respondents said they had to go into lay-off and about 32 per cent said they were earning less or stopped receiving a salary since the pandemic started.

“In order to avoid being forced to take the aforementioned long-term leave, and that their labour rights and interests are harmed, it is necessary to regulate this by law. I ask the Government to review the need to create and improve the work suspension compensation system, in order to effectively protect workers’ labour rights and interests,” the legislator added.

Meanwhile, legislator Wong Kit Cheng suggested that there should be a second phase of the local tours scheme, so that by stimulating domestic demand, it would be possible to alleviate, to some extent, the impact caused by the lack of visitors.

“As for the measures to attract tourists, I suggest you communicate, the as soon as possible, with the competent services of the Mainland of China to simplify procedures for issuing visas and reinforcing the disclosure that ‘Macau is a safe city for tourism’, creating with Guangdong Province and the cities of the Great Bay Area travel ‘bubbles’ to attract more tourists.

The legislator also proposed for the Government to implement benefit policies and tourist routes for visitors to Mainland China so as to extend the validity of nucleic acid tests, simplify health declaration procedures and optimize health code conversion procedures for customs clearance.

During a meeting yesterday with General Union of Neighbourhood Associations of Macau (UGAMM) representatives, the CE revealed that local authorities are considering a proposal to extend the validity period for a nucleic acid test result from the current seven days to 14-day.

UGAMM Vice President and legislator, Ho Ion Sang also suggested today for the Government to take advantage of big data and different online platforms to launch gift packages with Macau ‘features’ or ‘brands’ in order to increase the experience and charm, order to encourage more tourists to visit Macau and consume.

Apart from the wealth partaking scheme, also called for the continuation of disability social support schemes and for a third consumption card round.

Legislator Leong Sun Iok called for the Government to continue its Subsidized Training Plan to support local unemployed workers in re-entering the labour market and increase increasing public works to increase construction work jobs for local.

As at the end of August, the local resident’s unemployment rate reached 4 per cent, with the unemployed population amounting to 11,500 and the underemployed population increasing to 15,000.

The number of non-resident workers employed in Macau has also dropped by 13,500 since December, 2019 to August of this year.

Local authorities have also pledged to invest some MOP18 billion in infrastructure projects that could help reduce unemployment numbers.

“However construction jobs are not always suitable for everyone, especially given that most newly unemployed come from the gaming, hospitality and wholesale sectors and the Therefore, the authorities should proceed well with the placements and reinforce the management of non-resident workers, in order to ensure the priority of places in the access to employment,” the legislator added.

“Furthermore, they should also look for sectors and jobs in which there is a demand for labor and that is attractive to locals. They should also strengthen vocational training and consider launching, in cooperation with qualified companies, entry and in-service training plans, supporting them to hire, first, local workers on an internship basis”.