Although the budget of nearly all government bureaus is being reduced due to the economic downturn caused by Covid-19, commentators say that now is still a good time for the government to build public infrastructure.
An opera house will reportedly be built next to the Macau Science Center, TDM Radio reported in an unsourced report. The project is set to be announced by the Chief Executive (CE) Ho Iat Seng in his 2021 Policy Address at the Legislative Assembly on November 16. It will allegedly be located on NAPE’s waterfront, a location the government’s plan hinted at transforming into a culture and tourism hub.
Since the SAR has no opera house, Chinese and Western opera performances have been held at several public sites and facilities, as well as at the Macao Cultural Center.
Although the rumor was good news for the city’s cultural sector, some may see timing of the large-scale project during the current economic downturn as unusual.
The 2021 budget cut is the consequence of the Covid-19 impact. The CE has already ordered an aggregate 10% decrease in public administration expenditure next year. Some public departments are cutting their spend by more than 10%.
For the Macao Government Tourism Office, the board has proposed a 35% decrease to its budget and will seek only 1.45 billion patacas next year. Public departments have been asked to be even “more cautious” when analyzing budget allocations for each project, and should only register the budget when the department has received authorization to proceed.
However, for the commentators the Times spoke with, now is the right time for the government to build projects that will benefit the public and make Macau more attractive to tourists.
Architect Carlos Marreiros told the Times that an opera house will enhance the city’s cultural offerings, noting that the city is already hosting the Macau International Music Festival, which is well known in Asia.
“Why not [build an opera house]? Before the Portuguese administration left, they built a fine cultural center. The first CE finished the Macau Science Center, […] so now the third CE, I think, wants to produce something meaningful,” said the architect.
“With an opera house, the International Music Festival can be upgraded even more as there is no sufficient venue for [these kinds of events].”
Marreiros noted that with all the feasibility studies that had to be made, as well as gathering international and local experts for the study, the construction of the alleged project can only be concluded in two CE terms.
“For sure it won’t, in principle, be concluded in the first term of the CE. So it’s good to start now,” he said.
Marreiros thinks the government should be willing to spend money and invite first-class architects from around world to be a member of the jury in order to produce a world-class project, if the opera house project really pushes through.
He proposed an international competition to design the opera house should be held prior to building the project.
Social commentator Larry So is also positive about building public infrastructure despite the city’s current economic situation.
Although the SAR is facing a downturn in its economic revenue and is unsure whether tourist spending will be higher next year, he believes that the government should invest in public works that will be useful in the future to encourage more revenue to come in.
“The government should invest in the infrastructure of society by investing in public works. […] An opera house can be a kind of investment, but the most important thing to determine is who are these people who are willing to work [in building these kinds of projects]?” So asked.
“Investing in public construction will, to a certain extent, provide job opportunities for locals who are facing underemployment. I would say that the government should do these kinds of investments provided that the workers participating in these projects are locals – or at least 90% of them,” he said.