Editorial | Small to micro support

Paulo Coutinho

Secretary Lei Wai Nong announced yesterday the details of the new Covid-19 relief fund which amounts to 13.6 billion patacas overall, on top of the previously announced 30 billion support measures.

The main solution was, again, to give away money in the form of e-vouchers to the amount of MOP5,000 to each resident card holder to stimulate internal consumption, which follows a similar measure in the previous bailout of MOP3,000 per Macau resident.

In principle, this may help revitalize the economy and, surely, has universal appeal: even those who were not affected financially by the health crisis, like public servants, will benefit from it.

Yet, non-resident workers were again excluded from this and other relief measures.

Yet again, the problems of the so-called SME, which according to the government comprise 90% of incorporated Macau, are not properly addressed.

The Lei Plan envisages a lumpsum of between 15,000 and 200,000 patacas for companies in eight staged levels depending on the number of tax-paying workers – from 1 to 21 or more.

This will merely delay the agony of hundreds if not thousands of companies which are struggling to pay their staff salaries. Just imagine a 21-staff enterprise in the service industry which requires highly qualified personnel, without a stream of revenue since January. Would 200,000 be of any substance in this dwarfed economy for the months to come?

Even if a company has a sinking fund enough to make ends meet for a year – a rarity in the MSAR – it will probably go bust all the same with this level of support.

Now, if the idea behind this plan is to safeguard current jobs – for local residents or migrants – then, it is insufficient.

In a place as rich as Macau, in terms of foreign reserves and GDP per capita, this low level of support is not acceptable for 90% of its entrepreneurship in these times of the coronavirus that has sent away the tourists who support the casino-economy.

Look at what other countries, even most liberal economies, are doing.

In the UK, facing more hardship than us, the government has announced a £350 billion package of financial support,” BBC reported mid-March.

According to the source, London set out plans to pay employees 80% of their salaries, capped at £2,500 per month (MOP25,000), in an attempt to protect jobs.

A scaled-down Australian Federal Parliament was yesterday to vote in a bill to approve a Job Keeper Scheme that gives businesses a flat rate wage subsidy worth AUD1,500 (MOP7,500) a fortnight for each worker they employ. Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said the purpose of the payments was “to maintain that formal connection between the employer and the employee” which should support 6 million Australians. Over 730,000 businesses have already registered their interest with the tax office.

Our own local economists and lawmakers have already come out defending similar solutions that would really keep companies and employment in place – beyond casinos and government offices.

Having said that, we have to admit that when it comes to the top priority in combatting this global health crisis – people’s health and life – Ho Iat Seng’s policies are, as recognized by experts, in line with the best in the world: South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia and Germany.

China too would be in that group if you are to rewrite history and skip Beijing’s initial response arresting and shutting down the warning voices which if had been heeded right away, some say, may have prevented the pandemic.

Categories Editorial Macau