At the Legislative Assembly (AL) to respond to lawmakers’ questions on the policy address and other social topics, Chief Executive (CE) Chui Sai On said yesterday that he believes the government will have all the relevant bills and regulations completed and approved before the gaming concessions expire in 2022.
“At this moment I don’t see any need to perform any more extensions. We have enough time and we also think this is the right time to do the public tender,” Chui said in reply to questions by lawmaker Leong Sun Iok.
“We need to gather the conditions of the public tender, namely by the adjustment of the laws that have influence over this matter,” Chui further explained. “We are working on this topic already and we are available to hear from the public on these aspects.”
Although the tender and preparatory works will only complete after Chui steps down, the incumbent Chief Executive noted that there was “enough time to introduce changes and plan the new tender on time.”
Such changes, he elaborated, might include the clarification of the non-gaming elements to be introduced by the gaming concessionaries, as well as added guarantees for workers, among other new regulations and tender conditions.
Leong also wanted to know if the government planned to once more exempt from the special gaming tax the concessionaires that were recently granted a two-year license extension.
“This was a decision based on analysis and profound studies,” replied Chui. “We understand that if the renewal date is the same for everyone [all concessionaires and sub-concessionaires], this would be good for the stability of the economy and especially the workers.”
“Regarding the exemption of the special tax, we know that the taxes in Macau are quite high compared to other regions that also have gaming,” the CE remarked, saying indirectly that he does not expect to charge any other taxes on top of the main one levied at 35%.
Chui also noted that “from the talks we have had [with the concessionaires] we think they are all interested in joining the Central Provident Fund System.” He noted that this would probably also influence the analysis of applications for new gaming licenses.
MEASURES TO ATTRACT TALENT
One of the other big topics discussed during the CE’s visit to the AL was the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and the opportunities and challenges arising in several fields from the initiative.
Noting one of these challenges, lawmaker Kou Hoi In took the opportunity to question Chui on concrete measures for “talent recruitment,” in order to prevent Macau from lagging behind and enabling them to cope with the expected added competition.
Replying to the question, Chui noted that the government had been paying a lot of attention to the matter, having drafted a list of “priority professions in which Macau should focus on the recruitment of staff from abroad in areas we struggle with.”
Aside from the list created by the Talents Development Committee (CDT), the Chief Executive announced that in the second half of this year he hopes to advance more concrete measures on this topic. Nevertheless, Chui said that the CDT “is addressing these topics, especially regarding attracting new talent and [enticing] locals to return after they have been abroad for their studies.”
“Maybe our employment policies are disconnected from reality due to high growth [of the Macau economy] and high competition from the Greater Bay Area,” he admitted.
Chui further elaborated on the topic, saying: “Let’s be honest: The conditions given to most of the cities of the GBA are much better than the ones we offer here. They offer better guarantees than us. We need to face this [problem]. We hope that this work [of finding ways to attract skillful people] moves forward as lots of studies have been done already in this field. We have to open our mentality and also change our laws.”
The Chief Executive concluded by noting that there are not enough opportunities created for residents to pursue university studies in Macau and abroad.
ACCOUNTABILITY OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS
Another of the topics that emerged during the AL session was the accountability of public officials in general, and more specifically the several cases recently revealed or partially uncovered by reports from the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC).
Lawmaker Ella Lei questioned the Chief Executive on the need to improve accountability laws and regimes. However, Pereira Coutinho went further and asked Chui about the identities of 12 other individuals on the list of 14 names allegedly mentioned by former public prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng during the trial of a high-ranking official who had requested favors and recommended family and friends to public services.
Coutinho noted that two of the names had previously been revealed as the former and current Secretary for Administration and Justice, and asked for the remainder of the list’s contents to be revealed.
Chui replied that the cases of misconduct by public officials were being handled according to the law, and that if crimes had been committed then the cases would be forwarded to the Public Prosecutions Office. He added that according to the statute and rules of civil servants, all people aware of such instances have a duty to report them, a requirement that is not exclusive to the CCAC.
Regarding the “list” requested by Coutinho, the Chief Executive simply said, “it does not exist.”