OPINION – An unnecessary marathon

As with the 2020 policy address in April, the chief executive and his five secretaries are again conducting their respective marathons from 3:00pm to midnight, responding to questions from legislators at the Legislative Assembly (AL).

While in previous years the Macau SAR secretaries would each have two sessions in the afternoon to explain their policy guideline proposals, due to some strange pandemic prevention measure they decided to just have one long session.

The rationale seems to be that by avoiding two trips to the plenary, for some reason, the pandemic risk is reduced.

As usual, the policy address and subsequent press conference and the question-and-answer sessions with legislators can be watched via live broadcast on the television channels and radio service of public broadcaster TDM, although we can’t really call it a Q&A session if the inquired already know the questions in advance.

The Secretary for Administration and Justice and Secretary for Economy and Finance have already completed their respective sessions; the first last Wednesday and the second on Friday.

What this system actually means is that reporters – which probably represent 99 per cent of the people that are actually watching the sessions – have themselves also to perform reporting marathons to keep up with what is said and make sure the public, which have pretty busy lives, especially in troubled times like these, can know the policies that impact their lives.

After all, a local casino dealer will not be tuning in to the live broadcast during work hours to know if and how he will continue to receive his annual cash handout. I’m sure he will not tune in during his dinner time, or right before he goes to bed, with the secretary still going on on his TV.

He’ll just check some of the media outlets he follows to keep up with the most important updates.

Therefore it would be of interest for authorities to make sure it is as easy for media to follow and cover the policy address sessions. Not all media have the resources and manpower to just keep rotating reporters every hour to make sure nothing important goes missing or unreported.

Most media sometimes only have one or two reporters for the whole stretch.

So would it be that hard to initiate each policy address session from the morning stretching to the afternoon, with a lunch hour in between?

I’m sure delaying some of the permanent committee meetings to the next day will not impact crucial legislative work and probably even the secretaries themselves would be happier to not stay at the plenary until midnight.

Or why not have a real Q&A session with reporters for each secretary like what happens with the chief executive? I’m sure questions will be more interesting and poignant than those posted by many legislators.

Policy addresses are supposed to be an opportunity to explain government plans and strategies to the public, and the priority should be in making sure residents clearly understand the direction the city will go in 2021 following a year of challenges.

[MNA Editor-in-Chief]