Special Report – The (LRT) travails of Mr Rosário

It’s not easy being Macau’s Secretary for Public Works and Transport. Managing the LRT project can be a constant headache

MB November 2021 Special Report | LRT, the unloved

The table provided below, while not exhaustive, highlights the wedge currently being driven into local society by the LRT project.

On one side, the Government – on the other, just about everyone else.

Secretary for Public Works and Transport Raimundo do Rosário appears utterly alone in defending the project’s merits and asking for understanding in its early stages.

Criticism from a number of sectors has been “devastating”, to borrow a word used by one legislator proposing to solve the problem.

Legislative Assembly members of various backgrounds and political affiliations have joined in criticizing, above all, the project’s cost. But as our table shows, other opinion leaders have similar doubts.

To all of it, Raimundo do Rosário responds as best he can.

His arguments range from calls for understanding (with a project that is “still a child”) to didactic admonishments (“No public transport, especially a light rail or subway, makes money”).

Macau-based scholar Edmund Sheng has found explanations for this rift between Government and society. The Professor of Political Economy and Public Policy agrees that the Macao LRT “fails to meet the expectations of the general public.”

He tells Macau Business, “The reason is mainly the gap between the Government’s and the general public’s expectations of the project and its practical significance.”

At issue in terms of practicality is the project’s location: the LRT does not run on the Peninsula. “However, most residents are based on the Peninsula, and the same can be said of their places of work. That being the case, Macau citizens do not have any reason or motivation to use the LRT. In other words, the LRT project has no value for the local people. One of the purposes of public transportation is to connect the city’s residential and commercial areas. At this stage, Macau’s LRT project cannot achieve its essence,” the Associate Dean of the University of Macau’s Faculty of Social Sciences adds.

On the other hand, there is the problem of managing expectations: “the expectations of the general public are incompatible with those of the government.”

When the Government decided to alter the project, eliminating the Peninsula, “the LRT assumed a supplementary rather than leading role in Macau’s transportation system. However, the Macau government has not put forward a comprehensive explanation for such a huge adjustment. Therefore, the divergence in expectations is mainly caused by miscommunication between the government and the general public,” Professor Sheng concludes.