OPINION – Let June be

The figures are out and, much as expected, they do not look good. Gross Domestic Product, in the first quarter, was barely above half of last year’s number. The principal sources of Macau’s income took a hit and practically collapsed. 

Casinos were closed for a couple of weeks and operated at less than one-third of their previous levels after then. The number of visitors was also down by more than two-thirds. Additionally, visitors were spending less per capita. 

The quarters’ estimates for the number of visitors stood below 30 per cent of the same total last year. Then, the corresponding indicator was rising by more than 20 per cent.

Other indicators follow similar trends. Given the cancellation of most flights to Macau and Hong Kong, the enforcement of quarantine rules, the disturbances in the connections to all destinations in the delta area, and beyond, one is almost surprised the numbers were not worse.

The figures took a beating across all of the most relevant components: same day and overnight visitors; mainlanders, with or without individual visas; people from Hong Kong or Taiwan, or other neighbouring regions, no group was immune. The better performance or, to be more precise, the least bad figures came from Greater Bay visitors with a loss of, if one may say it, only 60 per cent.

The expectations for the second quarter are not much brighter. Gambling revenue got to even more considerable depths. The total for April was just about five per cent of what it was last year in the same month.  The results for May, just published, are very marginally better. 

Investment is diving, and that movement is unlikely to change until the horizon clears significantly. It isn’t easy to bet on a significant, let alone fast recovery under these circumstances.

Internal consumption has resisted a bit better – partly due to natural delays in spending behavior changes, partly due to government measures, namely cash subsidies.  But these are short-term alleviating factors, not sustainable answers to our present conditions. 

The prognosis will not improve until the economy moves back to something more akin to normalcy. We need to rebuild our external bridges: the faster, the better. But connections to Honk Kong are virtually suspended, and restrictions for all travellers are in place. The situation will not improve significantly unless the city reopens for business. We can never start too soon.