Editorial | Small ain’t pretty

Paulo Coutinho

The concept of the SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) in Macau should be used cautiously because over 80 percent of our incorporations are actually small or micro, and most of them depend of one sector: tourism. I mean, it is too large a category to mix medium and small companies together here because it leads to inaccurate assessment, and inappropriate and inadequate public policies.
In a crisis as deep as the financial debacle caused by the coronavirus epidemic, these “small and micro enterprises” (sme) fall like a castle of cards and their survival depends on vital emergency support.
The so-called “emergency” measures announced by the government to help SMEs so far, as exposed in a sequence of articles by the Times, are simply inefficient to really support our weak economy beyond gaming.
The interest-free or subsidized loans are not the answer to solve the problems of entrepreneurs that collapsed when China started sneezing. They need urgent support if they are to survive. Most of these small and micro ventures are dependent on the gaming sector – over 50% of GDP directly and 80% indirectly – or on the broader sector of tourism and entertainment.
Several voices have already come out in public to assert that the measures are “sands to our eyes” and in no way help entrepreneurs or companies in the harsh situation we are in.
Lawmaker Pereira Coutinho and economist Albano Martins are among those voices, and they both agree that exceptional times require exceptional measures. They both proposed, namely, a non-refundable one-off subsidy to help companies to pay salaries for two to three months. And they are right.
Macau is probably the first economy in the world to fall victim to the coronavirus outbreak.
Precisely because beyond gaming we have no sustainable businesses, and when revenue of the big-six fall 90% overnight, we are doomed.
Thousands of small and micro companies are collapsing – some have already filed for bankruptcy, others may be on the verge of it.
In this group of sme, we should include our trade, the newspapers. From Chinese to Portuguese and English-language news outlets, most of the publishing companies are small and short staffed.
And while we were one of the few groups of professionals to keep working throughout the health crisis along with the frontline workers, as is our duty, for seven weeks – seven long weeks – we basically saw no income, no ad money – which still pays the bills in our business model, and were put in dire financial straits in the process.
People’s health – I couldn’t agree more – comes first and, to be fair, the government has been doing a fairly good job in containing the contagion and treating the sick.
And lately, just this week, we are seeing signs of tenuous support from the government and the gaming concessionaires.
But it’s too little. Let’s hope it isn’t too late.

Categories Editorial Macau Opinion