Measures to support the economy during the pandemic, solutions to the growing unemployment among locals, and housing were three of the main topics chosen by the lawmakers in a Legislative Assembly (AL) during yesterday’s session solely dedicated to asking the Chief Executive (CE), Ho Iat Seng, about issues related to the policy address for this year.
Lawmakers wanted the CE to explain how the third round of the economic stimulus measures, and namely the electronic consumption measures presented on Monday, will produce the expected effects and not just raise the inflation rate.
Replying to lawmaker Ho Ion Sang, the CE noted that the measure is not new and so the government has already gathered enough experience from last year’s first two rounds to be confident that it will not cause any complications.
“Last year, when we presented a similar stimulus measure, the Consumer Price Index registered an increase [of just] 0.8%. We believe in the honesty of the establishments in Macau but still, the [economic] services will inspect [them] and we also [will have an] inspection done by the population,” Ho said, noting that the measures announced on Monday by the Secretary for Economy and Finance have the potential to solve the pressures faced by citizens and, at the same time, support the local economy, namely, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Noting the two options given for the collection of the government support – consumption cards or through mobile payment applications – the CE urged citizens to choose the latter, noting its use can generate a wider range of benefits.
“Last year, when we launched the consumption cards, there were no payment platforms but now, we have eight platforms that people can use. This 5.9 billion [patacas] will be used in Macau independently of the person being not in Macau, [so] the money will stay in Macau,” the CE said in a reply to lawmaker Sulu Sou, adding, “In a few days we will have more details [regarding] the benefits, and I hope the population can use their mobile phone to use these platforms, as the benefits will be [greater].” Ho also pointed out that the consumption card is a technology that does not support other functions and uses and so “it cannot provide the special discounts that the platforms will provide.” As a result, he urged the citizens to use the app option to be able to yield both the government benefits and the ones granted by the platform companies.
According to the CE, these extra benefits result from negotiations between the government and the companies.
Addressing the effectiveness of the stimulus measures that have until now been presented by the government, he added, “For the time being, the leverage rate has already reached 21.82%. This shows that there was a growth in consumption in Macau.”
AL debate on stimulus
would be ‘useless’
Replying to an inquiry by lawmaker Sou, who accused the government of failing in the presentation of the measures of the third round of stimulus by not hearing the opinions of the AL, the CE remarked that the AL is not a consultative body of the government and that a debate on such a matter would not produce any effective result. It would not help the government to make decisions while contributing to the delay in the implementation of the measures, the CE said.
“The policies of the government do not need to be always presented to the AL [prior]. We have the predominance of the executive power and we need to submit [the policies] for the approval of the AL to obtain funds [to implement them]. If the government is wrong, the AL can inspect the government’s work, but to do a consultation at the AL would be [to consider] the AL as a decision body [from the government] which is not part of [AL’s] competencies.”
Ho established a hierarchy of powers in which the government comes first, followed by society. The AL would come third in the process of certifying the decision and allowing the application of the measures.
“If we need a debate or not, well, you can have a debate, but do we [government] need to wait for that debate to pursue our work? I don’t think so! It’s not [for] me to control or decide what is or not debated in the AL, that’s a competence from AL but the legislative and the executive bodies are completely independent,” the CE said, adding, “You can debate, but what is the result of that debate? It’s to stall the work.”
Emphasizing society’s opinions, Ho said, “If society does not agree [with our plan], we stop, rethink and change the plan. I think this is the best method. Can the 33 lawmakers really represent the whole population? I think we collected a lot of opinions to improve the method [without resorting to the lawmakers].”
The CE also took the opportunity to accuse Sou of, by himself, trying to be “an opposition camp” to all the measures of the government. “That logic is wrong. Each lawmaker should vote according to [his or her] analysis and not as an opposition camp,” he concluded.
Housing is gov’t priority,
after pandemic control
Finding solutions for the housing problems in Macau is the government’s main task directly after pandemic prevention and control, the CE said in reply to an inquiry from lawmaker Ella Lei on the government’s plans for public housing.
In the reply, Ho also noted that there is a lot of work to progress housing that is depending on the Urban Master Plan and the detailed plans that will come in sequence.
On the topic, the CE said that the government aims, from this year, to start offering tenders for the upcoming economic rental housing units to be built in Zone A of the new landfill sites.
Ho said that the goal is to build as many as 28,000 units at a rate of 4,000 to 5,000 a year.
In the meantime, he said that is one of the government’s tasks: to consider the need for additional housing units of this kind.
For the CE, the number should be enough, as he expects that that priority will change for the economic acquisition units, as well as the new type of public housing dedicated to the so-called “sandwich class.”
Ho also admitted that the Wai Long project is still being reconsidered to determine whether such a project will or will not move towards construction:
“We need to see that we are in a different situation from the previous government [which decided to build public housing at Wai Long]. At the time, the government [of Chui Sai On] [did not have] enough land plots. But now we have enough land, so we need to consider also the environment of housing for our residents. So, we are considering building those 4,000 units in another place so the residents can have a more comfortable environment.”
The CE also noted that 70% of the population is currently living in housing units from the private sector and that the government cannot ignore the fact that the proliferation of too many public housing developments will make the value of the private market drop, harming those that acquired them.