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OPINION – Bonus ‘malus’

Gratitude is perhaps one of the most important values in life. One shall always try to be grateful, especially to those who care about their condition and do their best to treat them with dignity and respect.
This is the reason why one should like to make a preliminary statement that all workers entitled to the recently announced bonus that will be paid by Macau gaming concessionaires should feel grateful for such decision, as in the difficult times we are all living these companies managed to assure the payment of the usual annual bonus, equivalent to a month’s salary, to a significant part of their team members.
Having said that, and while one returns to a more realistic and logical dimension, one cannot understand why, despite the economic downturn Macau and the rest of the world is living, local gaming concessionaires decided to continue paying this type of bonus to their non-management staff. It is indeed a decision against all odds and expectations.
First, this year’s payment will be the perfect argument to plead against the alleged discretionary role of the allowance. As we all know, gaming operators’ financial results have been disappointing overall, but that has not prevented them from paying non-management workers a bonus primarily linked to a positive business performance instead of merely paying those employees their regular salary. If even in this unique scenario the bonus is still to be paid, when shall one expect that not to happen? One anticipates a lot of work for in-house legal departments that will have to deconstruct a likely allegation, when and if litigation comes.
Then, one struggles to find the logic sustaining massive layoffs, imposed “compassionate leaves”, and dramatic cost reductions experimented by all concessionaires in 2020 and the surprising payment of this bonus at the same time. I must remind all readers that thousands of workers lost their jobs in Macau last year. Another great percentage of workers in the gaming sector saw their salaries reduced and / or were requested to take successive nonpaid leaves. Iconic shows have been suspended, events have been cancelled, and major outlets saw their operations interrupted because there were no customers and ways to support daily operations. Hotels are still struggling with very low occupation rates, and Macau is nowadays the shadow of a once prolific touristic destination. Still, the bonus is on.
I reckon that the rationale behind the local gaming concessionaires’ decision about these payments was not supported by any financial, economic, or any other candid logic. Such decision was most likely politically driven, as businesswise there is no congruence between the bonus payment and the massive operational cost reductions all operators put in place some months ago.
One must say, however, that if the decision was political then that is ok. One can live with that. It happened before in Macau, despite the shocks caused to more liberal minds. The real question is: who’s paying the bill if the decision is political? Also, if these actions are somehow imposed to local gaming operators, are there any similar policies for other important businesses such as banks, insurance companies, or other gaming stakeholders like local junkets? If not, what is the reason for exclusively asking for such a massive effort from the companies that contribute the most to the prosperity of the region, including the SAR Government’s annual budget?
Governments around the world spent the last months announcing the release of financial packages to support their private sectors. The European Union and the United States of America are both preparing to give billions in incentives to their respective states. There is something we take for granted here in Macau. The local Government is in a uniquely vigorous financial condition, which could sponsor a strong financial package to support its residents, companies, professionals, associations, and any other relevant stakeholders. It would be more than welcome, I believe. It is strange that the local Government keeps a low profile when it comes to implementing innovative social measures. Besides the usual and praised package that is announced every year by Macau’s Chief Executive, there are no disruptive and extraordinary measures implemented by the Government despite the unprecedented times people all over the world are currently living. 
Requesting that local gaming concessionaires keep their promises of paying a bonus to their non-management workers is inconsiderate on the part of the local authorities because of the actions that gaming operators had to put in place to reshape Macau’s highly costly operations. If the intention is to minimize the impact of the pandemic on the pockets of the local residents, then the Government should step forward and sponsor such measures, unless they are committing to offering something to the local operators in return. Who knows?