A debate over the criteria for the assessment and authorization of residency by investment was the main topic of yesterday’s plenary session at the Legislative Assembly (AL).
During the debate, lawmaker Ella Lei proposed the introduction of a scoring system and mechanisms for monitoring the process. In reply, the Secretary of Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong, pledged to improve the legal credentials that rule the process. The president of the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM), Jackson Chang, said that the government is reviewing and reevaluating the processes of attribution for residence permits. Chang noted that in cases in which it is proven that such a permit was obtained by illegal means (such as fraud) authorization will be revoked and cancelled.
“If the [residency authorization was obtained by] illegal [means], the law of the Macau SAR already contains provisions to handle such cases. We are already reviewing these processes and if we find any illegality, we will proceed with the cancelation [of the residence permit],” Chang said in reply to Lei’s questions.
The reply was reaffirmed by Secretary Leong who noted, “All the processes [of residency attribution] are being reviewed,” adding, “If we find out that anyone presented false documents or provided false declarations, these will be forwarded to the judiciary authorities,” replying immediately to one of the most sought questions: “Should the government review the processes and suspend IDs in cases when applicants did not meet the necessary circumstances to establish residence [in Macau]?”
The debate at the AL follows a recent report of the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) that slammed the IPIM procedures on the evaluation of the applications as well as the lack of criteria to address the requests.
Another of the topics raised by the report was the lack of background checks to ensure the validity and authenticity of applicants and the documents provided by them.
Jackson Chang noted also that IPIM is paying close attention to CCAC’s report and has already established goals for improvement, which include, “the review of the processes [of residence attribution] and also the review of our own internal procedures and [reinforcement] of the capabilities of inspection.”
The reply by Chang did not cool off the debate, with many lawmakers wanting to know more about the working procedures of IPIM and what the government can, in fact, do regarding the current situation.
Further questioned by lawmakers Ng Kuok Cheong and Ma Chi Seng, the IPIM leader advanced that the priority in the analysis of the processes will be given to those applicants about to complete their seventh year of residence. That is, the residence authorizations that are soon to pass from temporary to permanent, according to the general rules into force for this kind of process.
“We are going to give priority to the applications that will soon complete seven years [of approval] and we are going to review all of them,” said the president of IPIM. He noted that, as part of the change of procedures regarding these applications, IPIM will “Increase the level of transparency in the process by disclosing the criteria,” as well as by “establishing a mechanism of revision and inspection and constant communication with the Talent Development Committee.”
As for other changes in the procedures, Chang also advised that IPIM will require from the applicants proof of “the results of their activity.”
The president of IPIM also suggested a revision in the law with concerns to the “specialized technical personnel.”
Ng and Ma had previously criticized IPIM for the lack of strictness and discipline on the approval of the applications. Ng previously called on the government to explain why the sectors of Conventions and Exhibitions and Chinese Medicine were considered relevant for the applications.
On his side, Ma noted that ultimately what is wrong, and what the society is complaining about, is not the policy for attribution of residence according the criteria established but instead the way IPIM handled the approvals.
Leong refuted the criticism that the only criteria taken into account by IPIM was the size of the investments and the salary of specialized technical personnel. “There are other factors,” said Leong. “Everyone thinks we should lift the ceiling for investment, but we are following all the main principles to classify the applications.”
Further considerations include the possibility of creating new jobs and vertical and horizontal mobility of local staff, as well as the development of “Macau’s brand.”
ID confiscation might be a complex issue
Following claims made by the IPIM president to cancel the residence authorizations in all the cases where it becomes proven that such permit was granted by fraudulent means, lawmakers such as Sulu Sou questioned the government on how this policy might be implemented.
In his first intervention at the plenary session since returning as a lawmaker, Sou reminded that the granting of residence is an essential right enshrined in the Basic Law and that the “loss of such a right might create a conflict between the Basic Law and the fundamental rights and the special right of the Chief Executive to cancel the residence by illegal attribution.”
“We must also grant to such people the right of defense,” he said, while suggesting that after the debate of yesterday, the topic should continue to be monitored by the AL follow-up committee.
Several lawmakers including Sou and Leong Sun Iok also questioned on the capacity of IPIM to effectively inspect the companies. Sou criticized the law “loopholes” that IPIM was well aware of but “did nothing about” until people started to complain. He called for government officials that handled the processes to assume greater responsibility.