Editorial | ‘Poster boy’ turns 20

“Patriotic education lays a solid social and political foundation for Macau to implement the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and guides its practice to always proceed in the correct direction.”

Xi Jinping, yesterday

Xi Jinping is in Macau for the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Macau Special Administrative Region, the “serious student” when compared to her sister SAR. The question is, what are we celebrating?

Mostly, economic achievements.

Macau is the world champion of gaming, of GDP per capita (almost top), and it is integrating quickly into the Greater Bay Area. A dream come true when it comes to Xinhua’s perspective of the “one country, two systems” formula. “Macau has been transformed into a prosperous cosmopolis with a rapidly developing economy, modern infrastructures and a promising social welfare system.”

The numbers are, indeed, staggering.

In two decades, GDP grew nine-fold from MOP55 billion to MOP444.7 billion, mean salary went from roughly 4,000 to 18,000 patacas, unemployment is down from 6.5% in the year 2000 to the most current 1.8% – a number, economists deem to be full employment. GDP per capita, in 2018, reached USD83,000, second only to Qatar.

However, economic indicators are far from being the ultimate measure of a healthy and happy society.

The late Robert Kennedy puts it better: “[GDP] measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile … Measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.”

Probably – that might be a point of contention – prosperity and wealth matter more in Macau than anywhere else. In casinoland greed commands life. In business, in politics, even in crime.

We can see it in the rampant speculation on property prices. We can see it when lawmakers contest a minimum wage for domestic helpers and, some, propose a higher bus fare for working immigrants because they “occupy the locals’ space.” We can see it in the Polytec and Dore scandals.

Greed is Macau’s ‘middle name,’ or to sweeten the pill, Macau is “interest-oriented.”

The MSAR does have other attributes to show. Like the recent results of the PISA, school students’ literacy assessment. Macau ranked third in the world. That’s the bright side. If we look at the dark side, our students of that age group, 15-year olds, are among the unhappiest in the world, according to the same report. And PISA success is inversely related to the capacity for critical thinking, as most schools are “interest-oriented” and promote blind obedience instead of curious minds.

The “good student” identity of the MSAR stems from here and goes all the way to the dominant class and to the establishment, which usually shows a culture of reverence to higher powers.

What I fail to understand is why all those journalists from Hong Kong or abroad were barred at the border – in arrivals or departures halls. What do we have to hide, if it is all so rosy?

That is to say, I fail to understand that they pose a “security threat.” What authorities here and in the mainland really fear is a change of narrative from the official and officious line. Because there are many that are discontented. To name a few reasons, the rising cost of living, the erosion of autonomy and of the rule of law, the increasing democratic deficit in daily life that is now worse than when colonial Portugal was in power; which is a historical contradiction.

Categories Editorial Opinion