Commentators say Policy Address practice is often pointless

Chui Sai On at the AL during last year’s Policy Address presentation

With the Policy Address being conducted by the Chief Executive (CE) at the Legislative Assembly (AL) today, some political commentators and analysts in the region are not expecting much from Chui Sai On’s speech, as there are still a number of promises that have not been implemented this year – and in previous years.

These experts in political science have been noting the many shortcomings and delays in implementing and assessing a number of policies that were announced during past Policy Address presentations.

In the CE’s speech last year during the Policy Address for 2017, the city’s leader admitted that a “few of the works are still lagging behind expectations of local residents” – and political analysts still argue the same.

Speaking to the Times, António Katchi, political commentator and lecturer at the Polytechnic Institute of Macau, expressed that he has low expectations for today’s Policy Address.

Katchi noted that when there are new policies announced during the Policy Address, it is usually presented as an intention or a possibility that still needs technical development and public discussion – which “often comes to nothing”.

The recently announced measures regarding bus fares, minimum wage, the national anthem and the future Municipal Institute are still under discussion, and the lecturer noted that it is unlikely the government will provide further details on such matters today. 

“On the other hand, the government, by the very nature of this regime, apart from managing the administrative machinery inherited from the past, does not work for the benefit of the broad masses of the people, but the interests of the local oligarchy, the external capitalists, and China Communist Party’s bureaucratic caste,” Katchi explained.

According to him, the government shall only adopt positive measures for the public given a popular mobilization strong enough to compel it in that direction.

Thus, he still believed that it is quite unlikely the government will take any new or politically significant steps for “the benefit of the people.”

“In short, what matters in Macau is not what the government announces, but the social reaction it triggers,” said Katchi.

Echoing the same sentiment, Sergio de Almeida Correia, lawyer and expert in political science, also criticized the current format of the Policy Address, arguing that the large document – which contains some 360 pages – is not an effective way to announce the government’s plans for the region.

Due to the numerous amount of measures, political scientists contended that most of the plans and measures listed in the document are likely to never be accomplished.

“According to the law, this document for the CE should contain the most important ideas of the administration and of the CE for the next year,” Correia argued.

“If you look at the Policy Address of last year, there are a lot of points that the government simply did not care about during the whole year of 2017. So it seems that there are a lot that doesn’t make sense to have it included in the Policy Address,” the expert added.

In the 2017 Policy Address, the document pledged to improve the region’s democratic process, and improve legislations on the condition and the rights of workers and employees.

However, the plans have not yet been implemented as they have refused to appoint the head of the future Municipal Institute, and have refused to approve the law for trade unions.

Correia also recalled that the 2016 Policy Address noted that it would “fundamentally solve the problems of flooding in the low-lying area of the Inner Harbour,” yet this also failed to be implemented.

“So there’s a contradiction between practical terms in the Policy Address and what is submitted to the assembly,” he said.

“The situation is worse this year than it was last year, at least in [terms of] the subjects which the population considers more important.”

He also lamented that questions made to the CE and the five secretariats are not properly addressed as they are given the right to choose which questions to answer.

Meanwhile another political commentator, Eric Sautedé, recalled the failure of several agendas including the provision of updates of the 2010-2020 General Transport Policy.

Describing the Policy Address as one of the most dramatic failures, Sautedé noted that it “disappeared because it was just too blatantly showing the utter incompetence of the relevant departments.’’

Contrary to any form of proper policy-making agenda, which sets defined goals and targets, Sautedé criticized that it has been failing to implement its promises.

“The inclusion of the planning for Macau in the five- year plan designed in Beijing was seen as a game-changer last year, and yet it has become a good excuse just to wait for Beijing to decide on things,” he said.

Echoing Correia’s criticism on the failed measures regarding the enhancement of the discharge capability of drainage networks and weather forecast systems, amongst others – which was announced in the 2015 Policy Address, Sautedé questioned whether it was implemented at all, citing the destruction of Typhoon Hato.

“Is it to say that with all the measures taken, the dreadful death-toll and path of destruction of Hato could have been worse?”

“People have started to realize the incompetence of the government can have pretty dramatic consequences,” he said.

Sautedé expressed that the public will once again be listening to programmatic declarations that, “for the most part, will either fail to materialize on time, fail to materialize properly or fail to materialize at all.”

Meanwhile, the political commentator is expecting that the 2018 Policy Address will consist of resolute perspectives regarding education and cultivating “local talents,” along with plans based around the One Belt, One Road initiative, reworked with the perspective of Macau as a tourism center and a platform for lusophone countries.

According to him, the plans will definitely include the phrase “new era,” yet he questioned, “what is a new era without clearly defined goals and a realistic and sustainable scheduling?

“My advice to the government: keep it simple (two to three goals per area of government) and deliver on these with perspectives over 1 year, 5 years and 10 years. Then you will rebuild the trust that was completely lost in the wake of Hato,” he concluded.

Interviewed by the Times, sociologist Larry So and economist José Sales Marques listed their expectations regarding today’s Policy Address, stressing its focus on Typhoon Hato’s destruction.

Aside from the expected speech on the city’s cooperation between the Central Government, both So and Sales Marques are expecting that speeches will also be made on concrete plans regarding flood prevention on the Inner Harbor and changes to be made in the prevention of natural disasters.

They stressed that measures to safeguard humans,public and private assets from environmental consequences, flooding prevention and management, and civic education, along with measures to integrate associations and other civic organizations in the government-led civic protection will likely be addressed.

According to So, the CE should strongly address this matter to gain the public’s confidence in the government.

“He’s got to be very strong with that kind of measures, […] he’s got to be very sure that he will implement these things, that we will not have any flooding, unless it’s a very extraordinary typhoon,” said So.

“The people in Macau do not have any faith towards the government.[…] I think this time it will have [to be] a different kind of strong statement that [expresses that] the government will be accountable and will have more transparency,” the sociologist reiterated.

Regarding the heavily talked-about public housing, So also emphasized that the public is waiting on the government to announce how many public housing units will be available for the residents.

He also believed that the fair increase in salary amongst the civil servants will be announced today, while the controversial bus fare-hike for non-resident workers will not be pushed through.

What will Chui say?

Chui Sai On is expected to announce a 2.24 percent salary increase for civil servants and the maintenance of the values of the annual health vouchers today, more specifically MOP9,000 for permanent residents and MOP5,400 for non-permanent residents. Changes are also expected in the judiciary system, with more judges being allocated to the appeal courts. More measures to support people and companies affected by Typhoon Hato are also expected.  

Secretaries present policy guidelines from November 27 to December 1

Following the Chief Executive presentation, the five Secretaries and their subordinates will present their 2018 policy guidelines to the Legislative Assembly. Sonia Chan, the Secretary for Administration and Justice will deliver the policy guidelines on November 21 and 22, followed by the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lionel Leong, on November 23 and 24. Wong Sio Chak, the Secretary for Security will present on November 27 and 28, followed by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, Alexis Tam, on November 30 and December 1. The Policy Address presentations will be concluded by the Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosário, on December 5 and 6.

Categories Headlines Macau