OPINION – Second round

Like many tourist destinations, Macau has its highs and lows. Typically, we have five high periods each year: the Chinese New Year, the Labor Day, the summer holiday, the National Day, and the Christmas and New Year period. Four of them have passed, and none has failed to dismay. For all the expectations that each raised, their outcomes fell short. 

Expectations for the remainder of the year are now possibly so low that whatever comes cannot bring disappointment. Absent a clear path and timetable to start a sustainable recovery, many companies may fall into a sort of slow-motion torpor, or worse.

In this mostly gloomy environment, the government announced a new set of measures to help small end medium companies. The latest actions are, in essence, the same as taken last year.

Alone, that is not wrong. But their reinstatement implicitly recognizes the previous round was insufficient. Worse, their repetition in almost the same terms may suggest a shortage of new ideas or that we are running out of munitions. 

The government press release states that these measures were formulated after a “broad’ study. Unfortunately, no specific information or conclusions from that study are available. It would be appropriate to provide a widely accessible and detailed assessment of last year’s actions’ extent and measurable outcomes.

The first three and the sixth measures listed are mainly an extension of what was done before. They concern interest rate subsidies, interest-free loans, extended reimbursement periods, and a three-month exemption from rents for users of public premises.

Then, the release mentions mostly unspecified incentives for the financial sector and property owners to facilitate life for their borrowers or tenants. Other than some tax adjustments yet to be defined in the latter case, it is not clear from the presented information what these incentives might mean. 

The last measure concerns granting additional subsidies for companies without profits last year or workers with low income. It is also a reiteration of what was done before. 

Pending further details and the budget alteration they will entail, not much more can be said. Again, some observed figures from the previous run would be welcome. Under the circumstances, we may venture they will possibly provide a little breathing space for some but are unlikely to be saviours for most. The display of closed shops in town may continue to attest to that.