1. The plan to create a municipal body “with no political power” was restated at the Legislative Assembly (AL) by the Secretary for Administration and Justice, Sonia Chan.
Not many details were given regarding this consultative body during a recent AL plenary session, with the secretary pledging to organize a public consultation on the matter. As the Chief Executive had done previously, Chan justified the need to set up the new organization by citing the need to abide by the Basic Law. “We need to think that the members of this council should reflect public opinion and also provide a better service to the population,” she said at the AL.
The difference between the future institute and the IACM is not very clear, nor is it clear as to whether the latter will be dissolved. If the proposed institute is basically the same thing, we are talking about a name change. If it is created to abide by the Basic Law (a good principle), then it must be stressed that there are other more relevant aspects set out in the Basic Law that are still unregulated, such as the provision that a Trade Union Law should be enforced.
Looking at the documents issued by the government regarding this matter, it is worth noting that there seems to be a concerned effort to stress that the future municipal body has “no political powers,” perhaps as opposed to Hong Kong, where the municipal bodies are elected and make political decisions.
But even if the body is consultative, if its members aim to “reflect public opinion and also provide a better service to the population,” aren’t they being political by doing so?
I wouldn’t go as far as certain philosophers who claim that everything is politics. But when someone is contributing to reach common decisions that affect a group of people, they are engaging in politics, even if their power is very limited. Therefore, it seems that this stress on the term “with no political power” derives from a somewhat apolitical view of the world, where only a few privileged are entitled to engage in politics and all others should follow.
2. Also at the AL, the issue of the contributions made by employers and employees to the social welfare system was brought up again by some lawmakers. This issue exemplifies an inability to decide when a “consensus” isn’t reached.
According to the current rules, each workplace pays MOP45 monthly to the social welfare system. The employer pays MOP30 and the worker pays the remaining MOP15. With such a ridiculously low contribution, it is no wonder that the government claims to support 90 percent of the welfare system, with employers and employees contributing only 10 percent, and obviously Macau has a welfare system that provides a meager pension for the elderly and retired. If people contribute with MOP15 per month, what can they expect other than money for soup when they are old?
Contributions haven’t been raised for the past four years because there’s no agreement on the proportion to be paid by workers and employers. The bosses’ representatives claim that the proportion to be paid should be equal and that paying MOP60 monthly would mean spending “too much money” to feed the welfare system.
In many countries, the contributions depend on incomes and can consist of several thousand patacas per month. In return, the elderly receive dignified pensions that allow them to have quality of life.
Here, the stalling and the old habits (when social welfare systems were non-existent and people would work as long as they were physically able to do so, with the family supporting the unable) make it normal to have the ordinary citizen receiving an aged pension of MOP3,350 per month, plus a yearly allowance of MOP8,000.
This indecision has consequences. With the resources available, authorities could stop waiting for unreachable consensus and set up a modern welfare system that is fair to all those who have contributed reasonably.
The setting up of the “Non-mandatory Central Provident Fund System” is a good step and contributes to the savings of many elderly citizens. But it isn’t enough to solve this problem.