AL Plenary | Lawmakers hope to speed up urban renewal with tax benefits

Lionel Leong (center-left) pictured at the AL on Friday

The tax benefits bill for Macau’s renovation of old buildings passed the first reading vote at the Legislative Assembly (AL) on Friday. Once the law is enforced, companies that do reconstruction works on old buildings will be waived from paying stamp tax.

The law concerns buildings that have been deemed dangerous, buildings that pose threats to public safety, and buildings that the Chief Executive has described as being beneficial for Macau’s social development, or deemed as relating to the protection of the city’s cultural heritage.

According to the bill, it is proposed that developers will not have to pay stamp taxes over the acquisition of a building if the developers do not change the nature of the building’s function.

Owners of properties located near the old buildings can also have their taxes waived over the acquisition of reconstructed properties.

However, there are certain limitations. For instance, the bill is capped to expansions of 10 percent of the property’s original area.

Several lawmakers, including Agnes Lam, wondered how the government decided the rule on to 10 percent expansion of old buildings, and asked if an additional percentage can be capped.

During the plenary session, the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong, noted several reasons behind the 10 percent decision, including that some buildings were not fully developed in terms of foot area.

The Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) will be the body responsible for approving a building’s renovation. The renovation plan must either be made based on a building’s original plan or based on DSSOPT’s considerations.

Like Lam, Chui Sai Peng and several other lawmakers also asked the government to explain how can DSSOPT engage in such procedures.

Secretary Leong explained that, in some individual cases, the original plan of a building cannot be used as the renovation plan. He further remarked that, at this moment, DSSOPT will be responsible for reviewing new plans based on the city’s regulations and laws.

Another concern of some lawmakers was whether several buildings can be combined as a single renovation project, in order to avoid potential urban development problems, which might occur in certain communities where there is only a fraction of buildings being renovated.

A DSSOPT representative replied by saying that “it could happen.” However, such a plan would still need to be approved by the  Urban Planning Committee.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Wong Kit Cheng wanted to know whether buildings already rebuilt should get tax benefits as well.  She also showed some concern about the Cultural Affairs Bureau’s (IC) role in the renovation of cultural relics.

The same DSSOPT representative told lawmakers that the IC will be asked when a building’s renovation involves the protection of cultural heritage.

According to the bill, developers must complete the foundations of the new buildings within three years after the acquisition of the building.

“If the developer [takes] more than three years to finish works, but the delay is not the responsibility of the developer, what will the government do in face of such situation?” questioned Ho Ion Sang, who then asked the government to consider giving more time to developers, as control over delays sometimes do not lie in their hands.

According to a DSSOPT representative, the government will not include the time spent by developers on administration procedures in the three year limit.

“Our experience tells us that three years is enough for a developer to finish foundation works,” the DSSOPT representative said.

Lawmaker Zheng Anting suggested the government should revise the city’s land law.

He also hoped the government could add an article concerning who is responsible when delays occur.

Leong, in reply to Zheng, said “we can study it.”

Macau’s Immigration requirements to be debated

ANOTHER MOTION to hold a debate on the city’s immigration policies, with a focus on investment immigration and the highly skilled professionals’ immigration policy, was passed at the Legislative Assembly (AL), resulting in a debate to be held.  “…Society has already been criticizing the abuse of investment policies, [as applicants] can forge their documents, and forge their education background,” said Lei Cheng I, who proposed the debate. “The policy should be evaluated, as many requirements are already far away from [the reality] and standards are too low, which are easy to meet,” said Lei.

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