Traffic-related matters, housing and the lack of parking spaces were topics that generated recurrent questions addressed to the Secretary for Transport and Public Works. Raimundo do Rosário was yesterday at the Legislative Assembly (AL) to answer to the questions of lawmakers regarding the policy address of the government for the areas under his remit.
Right from the start, lawmakers Ma Chi Seng, Fong Ka Chio, Sulu Sou, Leong Sun Iok and Chan Hong addressed the lack of parking spaces in the region, asking the secretary to explain how the government plans to solve the problem.
In the reply, the Secretary noted that to solve traffic problems, “one or two measures are not enough,” adding, “we have worked [on this matter], for instance, we already reached the figure of four years ago in the control over the growth of the number of vehicles and we [currently] do not have any growth. We did small things, people can’t see those because they are just small measures, but they are working.”
In the reply to the questions of Sou, who asked if the government has any study about which areas are more problematic in terms of the lack of parking spaces, Raimundo do Rosários said: “Yes, we know this very well, the area of Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro and until the Red Market is chaotic. It’s the most critical area in terms of parking but I do not have any land available [in this area] that allows such construction,” he said. “The only public parking lots that we managed to build are the ones located on the public housing buildings [plots],” Rosário added, noting that the government is trying to build new parking spaces in other areas of the city in order to reduce some of the pressure.
“We have the clear notion that the [number of] parking spaces is insufficient. But there are already more parking spaces [for private cars] than the number of these vehicles. Still insufficient but we already have some. The problem is a bit more complex for motorcycles,” he said, adding that there are still not enough spaces.
In reply to the suggestion of lawmaker Hong for the government to build “warehouse-style parking lots,” a type of parking system that allows vehicles to be stored on several floors, the Secretary said he agreed with the idea. However he noted: “I don’t know if I can do this work.” Rosário claimed there’s a lack of human resources and difficulties in hiring qualified staff.
“At the moment, I have working under my Secretariat a total of 3,385 staff members and although I have budget for 3,600 I can’t hire more,” he explained.
In the follow-up questions that followed, Sou also inquired about the number of public vehicles currently occupying parking spaces to which Rosário replied, “the government cars [of my Secretariat] were 206 when I took office. Now I only have 180. These vehicles were occupying 34 parking spaces in public car parks, now only 17. I know this is just ‘a drop of water in the ocean’ but we are working.”
In regards to the number and current price of monthly passes in public parking lots, the Secretary said he was aware that they “are not following the market value.”
“When we do our next update of the hourly fares [for the parking lots] we will also review the price for the monthly passes,” he said, hinting that such passes would increase more than the usual amount.
Replying to several lawmakers who raised issues relating to housing, the Secretary noted the concerns of the so-called “third type of public housing” that should include the youth as well as people from the middle class that cannot apply for the tenders of economic housing, but are also unable to acquire units in the private market.
“I do agree with this idea of the ‘third type of public housing’ but for the time being I cannot do such work,” said the Secretary. “We are concentrating all our efforts [for now] on the other two types [affordable rentals and affordable acquisition] of public housing,” he said, expressing that the system of attribution of houses could be permanent in future but noting that such a change would always depend on the offer of units.
Problems in public tenders
Another topic of note during yesterday’s Legislative Assembly (AL) question and answer session with the Secretary for Transport and Public Works concerned public tenders – namely on the problems that occurred during the two major public tenders for the construction of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) depot and workshop building, and the Mong Ha Sports Pavilion.
Lawmaker Sulu Sou was the first, but not the only, to raise questions on the topic, questioning Secretary Raimundo do Rosário on the status of the major ongoing public works, such as the Islands District Medical Complex and the Mong Ha pavilion and noting the problems with their tenders. Questions followed later by lawmaker Si Ka Lon.
The Secretary said that the foundation works of the first six buildings of the first phase of the Islands Hospital have been concluded and that the Nursing Institute building is also being built.
“There is another [building, for] which the project is already done but hasn’t yet started to be built yet,” added Rosário. “Next week we will have news on these [public] tenders.”
As for the situation of the Mong Ha Sports Pavilion, Rosário reaffirmed that contrary to the case of the LRT – where the courts have decided that the tender was unlawful, the current contract should be cancelled and the company that ought to have won be compensated – “my colleagues did not work wrongly on this [Mong Ha] matter.”
“They did not commit any mistakes,” he added. “We are expecting the works to close in 2021, but due to the decision of the Court of Final Instance we had to suspend the agreement [and the works] and in that sense I cannot answer about when the works will resume or conclude.”
He also said that in the new tenders and contracts the government is trying the best it can to “reduce the possibilities of budgetary slippage,” adding, “I can’t guarantee that there will be no problems but we are pulling out all the stops to achieve that.”