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Improvements to the plan are not enough

Paulo Rego*

For those who expected a detailed plan, they will be disappointed. The path to economic diversification over the next five years is “just one direction”, as the director of the Policy Study and Regional Development Services made a point of highlighting. There are positive points, such as the commitment to the development of higher education, with concrete numbers. However, most macro objectives are not tangible. At the end of the day, they only commit to “improving” what is being implemented.

The plan states that the financial industry will represent 10 percent of Macau’s GDP by 2028. Great. On the one hand, it reveals that the sector is on a good path to grow and become one of the biggest bets. On the other hand, it is the only industry in which they specify the weight it will have in five years. It reveals a lot about the still long journey that the remaining diversification sectors will have to take to weigh on GDP. About these, there is talk of “more projects”, “improvements”, “deepening…”, nothing tangible. Several areas compare themselves to the numbers made in 2022, ignoring the fact that it is a completely atypical year (pandemic).

As for gambling, the equivalent of 40 percent of gross value added is wanted – 10 percent less than in 2019. And the degree of dependence on current revenues is “less than in 2019”, when it reached 84.8 percent . Naturally, presenting an equal or greater dependence – even more so with the limits now imposed on activity – would be a total failure of Macau’s economic diversification. But doing “less” is not exactly an ambitious goal – any optimization immediately smells like success. Another worrying fact is the projection for 2028 of the same number of jobs outside the game. Doesn’t diversification create jobs? Will gambling continue to represent 20 percent of the employed population?

It is supposed to achieve adequate diversification by 2035, which in itself, with the changes that Macau is undergoing at a political and socioeconomic level, already represents a Herculean challenge. The city has practically 11 years to get to work – and comply. I ask: isn’t it necessary to be more precise? Diversification did not become a theme or objective with the arrival of the new concessions. Improvements are great and always welcome. Provide more growth opportunities to the private sector as well. But the deadlines are set, and on the premise that non-gaming industries will represent 60 percent of GVA. Macau must be ambitious, and must work towards concrete goals. That’s the only way to do it. Otherwise, in 2035, we will be presenting Beijing with an economy that has only changed in semantics. Regional autonomy beyond 2049 depends on these details. If the results do not serve national interests, the scope for being different is lost.

*Executive Director of PLATAFORMA

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