Editorial | 2015: Another year on the waiting list

Paulo Coutinho

Paulo Coutinho

The city was shocked in 2015 by the tragic death of Ms Lai Man Wa, the Customs Chief, who allegedly committed suicide by asphyxiation, according to the government’s account of police and forensic investigations. Many questioned the official preliminary report including lawmakers Pereira Coutinho and Au Kam Sam.
Indeed the circumstances publicly revealed by the government leave reasonable doubt about the case: the place her body was found (a public toilet near her residence) and the clumsy process Ms Lai – a 30-year career policewoman – allegedly used to put an end to her life (apparently, she used drugs, a blade and a plastic bag). Also communication of her death to the public was deemed “inappropriate” due to the delay (3 odd hours after the body was found) and then there was the “intriguing” presence of Chui Sai On at the press conference on October 30. Chui, notably shocked by the tragic news, expressed his “great sorrow” at the death of “a close friend.”
At the Policy Address debate later in the year, in December, the government, namely Secretary Wong Sio Chak, was asked by legislators to produce a conclusive and in depth report on the incident. It seems nobody in this town trusts the official version and it is vital that authorities come up with a credible report ASAP to put an end to widespread rumors.
2015 was also marred by the continuous steep decline in gaming revenue, which led to problems in the sector, more so in the exclusive and complex world of junkets and VIP gamblers.
The impact of Xi Jinping’s policies against corruption and “vice” reverberated badly in Macau and upon its particular brand of lavish lifestyle leading an observer from the Financial Times to comment ironically that “even the most honest of rich folk” in China is afraid to be seen anywhere near a Macau casino.
The worst case was with the Dore junket operation at Wynn, where a “trusted employee” with access to the cage escaped with over HKD300 million in cash. The theft led to a spiral of problems with dozens of investors, mostly locals who lost their money “deposited” with the junket in this high stakes’ game, taking their frustration to the streets and petitioning higher authorities.
Other citizens were ripped-off by the millions in the disastrous pre-sale of Pearl Horizon apartments in northern Macau, the land-use rights being taken from the developers, rescinded by the government.
Besides the atrocious fact of the matter, what was worrying about those demonstrations of people claiming legitimate rights is that in most of the occasions, they took to the streets wearing masks – something that is common practice in the mainland but has been a novelty here. What are they afraid of?
Also in the context of the “new norm,” the city was stunned by the arrest of Alan Ho, Stanley’s nephew and protégée, for allegedly being the head of a prostitution ring netting 400 million per year in what was seen as an attack at the heart of the “old school,” kind of sleazy Macau.
All the while we witnessed the launching of the so-called Cotai 2.0 with the openings of Galaxy phase 3 and, especially, Melco’s Studio City, which opened with fanfare and an emphasis on non-gaming entertainment. But visitation to the new properties have so far failed to impress the analysts.
2015 was also the first full year of the new 5 policy secretaries. Chui revamped the whole team with new blood. The most active in the public eye were certainly Alexis Tam and Raimundo do Rosário, both dealing by default with the most pressing issues affecting day-to-day life: health, education and social welfare; public transportation, traffic and housing.
The results? Macau’s sitting another year on the waiting list.


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