Our Desk | An inconvenient dependency

Renato Marques

If there is something that the Covid-19 pandemic is responsible for, it is definitely the highlighting of certain dependencies, links, and interactions that most people may have completely forgotten or, at least, disregarded how important they are.
Such fact might occur because these links exist for a long period and nobody has memory anymore of the times before they existed.
We know, or at least are mostly aware, that we are dependent on certain goods and services from the mainland. Our water, electricity and essentials such as fresh meat and produce, come exclusively or in large part from the mainland.
We also know, or so we have been told over the last two decades especially, that the functioning of our economy and all its sectors is almost exclusively dependent on visitors from the mainland.
It is this second part that I want to focus my attention today. Are we really that dependent on mainland tourists in all our economic sectors, or are there some sectors which are less dependent on the mainland and more reliant on other neighboring markets?
According to the official tourism figures released by the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), besides the mainland, which clearly occupies first place for the country or region of origin of the visitors to Macau, the neighboring region Hong Kong importantly occupies second place.
This link and interaction with HK is probably one of the oldest ones that Macau has ever had and it has always produced investment, exchange, and wealth.
This fact has apparently been scraped out of agendas, more so after the period of social unrest our neighbors experienced. There is a sudden fear of mentioning HK. Even the legislators at the Legislative Assembly, who used and abused HK as an example and comparison for every single bill or topic in a discussion, have refrained from referring to the “other SAR” as if it has suddenly vanished from the map.
The only exception to these “collective forgetfulness” occurred in mid-September last year, when the Chief Executive, Ho Iat Seng, spoke on the sidelines of a public event, stating that Macau would have to continue to close its borders to one of its major markets for visitors, Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong, for instance, is so close but we can’t open the doors to them as yet. It is a market of 7 million people and our second biggest [visitor] market but we cannot open the borders to them as they are not yet considered low-risk,” the CE said, while hoping that border restrictions could be eased for other countries and regions in Asia.
Despite its multiple dependencies, Macau decided to rely only on one of them and so decided on keeping the “door” open only for the larger market and the one we thought was the best. At the end of the day, we trusted that such measure would be enough to save us from drowning in a pandemic crisis.
Such a decision seems now to have proven wrong and every day that passes looks to have been further away from the ideal solution.
Nobody can tell for sure when the Macau borders will reopen to HK or other markets such as South Korea and Japan. However, the more days that we are closed and confined in our safe zone, the more we are distancing ourselves from the rest of the world and spending on the numerous promotion works will go down the drain.
While I am all in favor of a safe environment, difficult times call for actions and solutions to fight this inertia.
As the laws of physics state, inertia always tends to exist and will remain unless an object is changed by an external force.

Categories Opinion