Bizcuits | The Macau confession

Leanda Lee

Life was happier, focused, simpler (some may say one of ignorance and naivety) before I started to read the news in my mid-thirties. After yesterday’s headline, I am toying with the idea of returning to those halcyon days.

Macau’s news has been depressing since Hato. Yesterday’s “Chui’s brother to be next AL vice-president” must have many of us grappling with the cognitive dissonance brought about by cultural distance and logical inconsistencies.

I am guilty of the general westerner’s dislike for cronyism, and an abhorrence of nepotism. Elsewhere, professional “boys’ clubs” and golfing or sports’ club mateship may garner quiet acceptance, because insiders can be readily assessed, merit can be discerned, trust already developed and a chance of quid pro quo. Even then, attention is given to justifying suitability for an appointment and it is usual for attempts to be made at criteria-based selection processes, or at least a pretence of it. Ethical institutions will strive to prove an arm’s-length nature to appointments, tenders and contracts, going as far as to disadvantage those who are associated with the decision makers or even ban them from some selection processes altogether.

There is a cultural divide on the values surrounding nepotism and cronyism; of zero tolerance at one end of the spectrum and a preference to trust only insiders at the other. The former views corruption as a corollary of the latter.

Thus, the bewilderment caused by a government – this once so-called “sunshine” (transparent) administration – which while aiming to root out corruption makes such a high profile familial appointment. We know the cronies are in charge but does it have to be so blatant, even to the most ignorant of us?

Then there was the other non-starter (hopefully) of this fortnight: the proposed application of a discriminatory fare system on our buses. The Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosario, announced late September that a proposal was being considered whereby those without Macau ID cards would pay more to ride Macau’s public buses.

There is and can be no rationale for any organisation or leader sending out a message that one group within a community is any lesser – less worthy, less valued, to be less cared for – than any other. All the more when those who would be most disadvantaged – the non-resident workers, tourists and visiting business people, technical experts and artists – are precisely the individuals who have and do contribute most to facilitate Macau’s economic development.

Rosario’s “positive discrimination” is oxymoronic double speak.

This apparently insidiously misused language may, however, if we dig, have another explanation. If it has been used in its true sense, it belies the belief by those that accept its semantics that it is Macau’s residents who are the under-privileged ones. Both patronising and discriminatory – this news was not happy reading.

Spoil the child and the entitlement mindset shall remain. Comments from some local residents provided to the public press and posted on social media indicate that this sense of entitlement has become entrenched and, worse, is assumed to be completely normal.

Under-privileged? There is hardly a better economic environment beyond Macau in which to live, on almost any economic indicator, except maybe for the Gini coefficient (the measure of income inequality). This is one slippery indicator: last published publicly by the Statistics Bureau in 2013 at 0.35, but in the same year released by Macau Economic Association on 2011 data at 0.4 which showed an increase in income inequality since 2008 at 0.38. That illusive little economic measure should reappear in the 2017/2018 Household Budget Survey.  I suggest that herein lies the real boogie man: the inability to distribute Macau’s power and wealth equitably for and among its own residents.

In this light, the “positive discrimination” comment was an inadvertent confession.

Categories Opinion