Yesterday, the government presented the amended measures related to the electronic consumption vouchers (e-vouchers) as part of the third round of economic stimulus.
The new plan, unveiled by the government in a press conference held at the Economic and Technological Development Bureau (DSEDT), will grant every resident of Macau a total of 8,000 patacas, to be made available in two parts: 5,000 patacas as a spendable balance, and 3,000 patacas as an automatic direct discount.
Under the new scheme, residents can opt to receive the funds on their old consumption cards or via one of the eight mobile payment applications (apps) in use in Macau.
The government is investing a total of MOP5.88 billion in the scheme, aiming to boost internal consumption as a way to support economic stability and employment, the Secretary for Economy and Finance, Lei Wai Nong said.
Although the scheme is ready to go into effect, it still needs to pass the Legislative Assembly (AL) since the budgetary appropriation requires legislative approval, Lei noted in a reply to the media. However, the Secretary is confident that all the legislative procedures to support the new plan will be concluded before June this year, the scheme being expected to run from June until the end of the year.
Questioned on whether the government thinks this amended scheme has the broad community support, Lei said he believes this to be the case since the government has adjusted the scheme following public consultation.
“After the first publication and disclosure of the previous plan, we heard many opinions from the different sectors of society. Citizens [called for] a way to simplify the process and some other opinions also expressed the wish of having a starting balance, so this [new plan] is based on a scientific decision after hearing the opinions from the public, and following the prevalence of the intentions and will of the society. All those opinions we collected helped us to arrive at this measure [plan] for 2021,” Lei remarked.
Presenting details on the plan, the DSEDT director Tai Kin Ip noted that as in the previous scheme, there will be a daily spending cap of 300 patacas. However, he noted, this cap is calculated after the discount, which is always 25%.
Tai explained that if a resident wants to acquire a product that costs 400 patacas, they can use both provisions of the scheme, since 25% (100 patacas) would be immediately deducted from the direct discount funds, while the remaining 300 patacas would be deducted from the spending balance.
The director also said that all of these details, as well as both balances, will be displayed in the mobile app and printed on the receipt after any purchase of goods or services.
Tai noted that use of both the consumption cards and the mobile apps will be restricted to services or entities such as gaming companies, hospitals, banks and insurance companies to ensure that the money will be effectively injected into the private sector in Macau.
Questioned by the media if people using Alipay mobile app could make use of the subsidy to acquire products outside Macau, such as via the Taobao.com website, the director said, “We have excluded any [possibility of] payment outside Macau. We have ensured that such use would not be possible.”
Registration for the new scheme will be available from May to December through a dedicated page hosted by the Monetary Authority of Macao (AMCM). Currently residents must choose one of the two systems to receive the funds, either the consumption cards or registration via mobile apps. According to the government officials, AMCM will verify the identities of applicants to ensure that the application is from a resident and that it is not in any way duplicated.
TNR inclusion on e-voucher scheme requires further consensus across society
For the time being, non-resident workers (TNRs) will be excluded from any government support; the economic support plan presented yesterday only included residents of Macau.
Questioned on the topic, acknowledged this, saying that potential inclusion of the TNRs in a government plan would require more community consultation and greater consensus.
However, Lei left the door open for the possibility of including the TNRs in future measures.
“After hearing the opinions of the society, we improved this plan and we included the initial spending balance. At this time, we focused our attention more on the residents of Macau but this is a pilot project. I think that after we hear more opinions from society, we can launch further measures in the future. We do not discard this possibility,” Lei said when questioned on the inclusion of TNRs in the government’s plans.
“But for the time being, and as a pilot project, we need to carefully observe its enforcement and execution. I think through this plan of benefits we can already fully satisfy the needs of the population and also ease the pressure felt by part of the population,” Lei added, noting that the plan presented yesterday is expected to “stabilize the employment and the economy of Macau.”
The Secretary concluded by saying that if this objective is achieved, the plan that might be made available for the TNRs would only include the discount program, not the financial contributions from the government.
“TNRs will for sure not have a starting balance, but there is a possibility of including them in the discount [program] at a later stage. This may be possible,” Lei said, adding that the different mobile payment application platforms are also willing to provide different discounts and benefits to residents and non-residents.
The exclusion of the TNRs from the e-vouchers scheme was a notable difference between the first plan presented by the government and the amended plan just announced.
Speaking to the Times on a previous occasion, representatives of several groups of migrant workers in Macau expressed disappointment at such a change, expressing fears that their exclusion from any government support will increase their financial burdens. RM