Macau's residents each get 9,000 pataca handout, but critics not satisfied
City's chief executive promises to tackle rising flat prices, but democratic lawmaker accuses him of failing to tackle housing and labour problems
Casino-rich Macau announced a record handout of 9,000 patacas for each of its 570,000 permanent residents yesterday as part of a basket of sweeteners that critics say are designed to head off growing public anger over bigger structural economic problems.
The cash payout - 1,000 patacas bigger than last year's - was announced by Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on in his policy address ahead of his expected re-election for a second term next year.
Critics say Chui's package of direct financial handouts - which also includes a 7,000-pataca injection into the provident funds of eligible residents and a smaller (5,400 patacas) handout for non-permanent residents - mask his failure to come up with long-term solutions to labour and housing problems.
In his blueprint for the year ahead Chui did, however, promise stronger supervision of the casino sector in an effort to expand job opportunities and boost upward mobility for Macau residents in the sector, which is the lifeblood of the economy.
Direct taxes from gaming this year are expected to bring in about 95 billion patacas - more than 80 per cent of the city's total revenue of 115 billion patacas - according to official figures.
Delivering his speech to the Legislative Assembly, Chui said: "The government will continue to strengthen the supervision of the gaming industry to make sure of its healthy development.
"The government … will actively motivate gaming business operators to be responsive in a way to enable a bigger number of local employees to join their management team, facilitating the upward mobility of local employees."
He also revealed that Macau would soon receive an initial batch of 300 domestic helpers from Guangdong and Fujian , rising gradually to 1,500. Hong Kong has ruled out recruiting helpers from the mainland.
Amid growing public discontent at soaring home prices, Chui said public housing development would be a priority and pledged to look into the concept of "Macau properties for Macau people", an apparent echo of a similar mantra adopted by Hong Kong, as it seeks to restrict the nationality of homebuyers.
Chui said the "cash sharing" programme - an annual event since it was introduced by his predecessor Edmund Ho Hau-wah in 2008 after a major protest - was in response to "positive economic growth". He refused to say whether he would continue the scheme if re-elected.
"Whether I will run for Macau's fourth chief executive election … I will consider in the remainder of my term how much I will have implemented my election platform in 2009 as a self-evaluation. I will make further announcements according to the relevant [election] laws."
Lawmaker Au Kam-san, of the New Democratic Macau Association, said he was disappointed with the policy address.
"The government is under pressure from vested interest groups on the housing front. When it comes to public housing, it is rather hesitant," said Au.
He also said the government could exert considerable leverage on casino operators over their employment policies as discussion over the renewal of their licences begins in 2015.
"At the end of the day it's all about the government's determination to ask for changes in their recruitment policies," Au said.