At around 8 am on weekdays, Macao resident Cheong spends less than a minute crossing the border into Zhuhai from neighboring Guangdong Province via the Qingmao Border Post, the fifth land port connecting the Special Administrative Region of Macau (SAR) with the mainland of China.
With simplified customs clearance procedures, the port, which opened in September 2021 and operates 24 hours a day, has 50 automatic channels at the entrance for passenger clearance services and another 50 at the exit, with two manual counters operating in each direction. .
At about the same time, Ho Kok Tou, a Macau resident, drives to work at an information technology company located on Hengqin Island of Zhuhai, which is adjacent to Macau.
Currently, more than 2,000 Macau-licensed vehicles cross the Hengqin Border Post every day thanks to the policy that allows Macau-licensed vehicles to cross the border since the end of 2016.
Since 2017, when the framework agreement on the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area was signed, connectivity has been continuously improved to help Macau better integrate into the country’s overall development.
In September last year, the Chinese central authorities issued a plan to build the Guangdong-Macao Deep Cooperation Zone in Hengqin, making the island an important new growth point for Macau’s economy.
Sheng Li, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Macau, told Xinhua that infrastructure connectivity, mainly represented by modern comprehensive transport systems, is vital for regional integration and development within the Greater Bay Area, which is rich in resources.
In March 2021, construction was launched to extend the light rail line from Macau to Hengqin. It is planned to operate as regular round-trip services between the two sides upon completion scheduled for 2025. Research is also underway to link Macau to Hengqin by waterway.
In Hengqin, several undersea bridges and tunnels are under construction to better connect the island with other parts of Zhuhai, especially its airport.
Meanwhile, Macau is also striving to improve its “smooth connectivity” with Guangdong in terms of investment, trade, personnel flow and customs clearance.
A new project has been launched in Hengqin to provide residential and business units as well as facilities to support Macao residents with education, medical and community services, all connected with those in Macao.
An online platform was also launched to resolve cross-border arbitration cases under the new model of mutual discussion, joint construction, joint administration and shared benefits between arbitration institutions in Macau and Guangdong.
“The connectivity of rules and mechanisms ensures market integration and efficient flow of other important elements in the Greater Bay Area,” said Sheng. “Macao’s effort to explore the ‘greatest common divider’ of ‘soft connectivity’ under different systems can provide a useful reference for linking different market mechanisms.”
Ho Iat Seng, Chief Executive of the Macao SAR, said in his fiscal year 2022 policy speech that the Macao SAR government will accelerate the development of important supporting policies for the construction of the cooperation zone in Hengqin, including special measures to relax market access in the zone, as well as a list of the first batch of authorized items and encouraged industries.
The Macao SAR government will also actively participate in building the legal system in the cooperation zone, deepening law and justice exchanges and cooperation with Guangdong, as well as improving the dispute resolution mechanism, Ho said.
Ip Kuai Peng, pro-rector of the City University of Macau, said the construction of the cooperation zone is the top priority for Macau to participate in the construction of the Greater Bay Area and promote connectivity within the area.
Ip said that connectivity means improving Macao’s accessibility and promoting institutional innovations, so as to facilitate policy coordination and articulation of plans in the areas of law, science and technology, finance, business and the life of the population within the Greater Area of Bay.
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