Citing the Financial Secretary’s insufficient disclosure on key information, lawmaker Ron Lam voted no on the Bill’s first reading at the parliament.
More an expression of Lam’s stance than having the capacity to affect the outcome, the “nay” did not affect the passing of the bill in general terms.
Lam was not satisfied with Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong’s reply on several questions, with one of them about the legally stipulated payment to the Macao Foundation by gambling concessionaires.
Pursuant to the existing law, gambling concessionaires are required to pay 35% of their gross gambling revenue as gambling tax, in addition to at most 5% of public investments into certain funds, such as the Macao Foundation.
The 5% public investments are discretionary and have usually fluctuated. For the time being, most concessionaires have been paying below 5%.
Lam wanted the senior official to clarify why this has been happening. “Why [is the government] not charging them the maximum amount?” the lawmaker questioned several times in the hopes of getting an answer.
However, the Financial Secretary reiterated his stance that an explanation would include certain disclosures of “detailed information,” so he had to refrain from answering Lam’s question.
He offered to explain further at the committee stage of the legislation process.
Lam did not find this explanation satisfactory. He even resorted to the Rules of the Legislative Assembly to demand a clear answer from the senior official.
Even so, the senior official replied that he would not give a definite answer at the plenary.
After voting, Lam made a statement on his decision, stressing that it is crucial for the public to know why the gambling concessionaires are not being charged the highest amount of public investments.
“We need to bear in mind that committee meetings are conducted close-door, blocking the public from the legislation process,” Lam explained. AL