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Cooperation zone in Hengqin to bring opportunities for Macao

This aerial photo taken on Aug 18, 2020, shows the Hengqin Port between Macao and Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong province. (CHEONG KAM KA / XINHUA

MACAO – The Chinese central authorities' plan for building a Guangdong-Macao in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin has been hailed as "major good news" for the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR).

Hengqin is an area located in the southern part of Zhuhai city in Guangdong province, just adjacent to Macao.

Bringing with it new opportunities and new space for Macao, a city rather small in terms of its land area, the plan, issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council and made public on Sunday, is expected to create new impetus for Macao's development by facilitating its better integration into overall national development.

The central authorities' plan for building a Guangdong-Macao in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin will inject fresh vitality into Macao's higher education, scientific research and development, tourism and leisure industry, and finance, experts said

Experts from various sectors of Macao have told Xinhua that the plan will inject fresh vitality into Macao's higher education, scientific research and development, the tourism and leisure industry, and finance.

General guidelines, policies

The plan defines the strategic position of the zone as a new platform to boost Macao's appropriate economic diversification, a new space that provides convenience to Macao residents' life and employment, a new model to enrich the practice of "one country, two systems," as well as a new high ground for building the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

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The plan prioritizes people's livelihood with a set of concrete measures to build Hengqin into a new home for Macao residents to live and work in, such as exemption of income tax margins, lowering and gradually calling off charges for long-distance phone calls and cross-border internet connections between the two places, further facilitating Macao-registered vehicles into and out of Hengqin in a more convenient manner, and the joint building of regional medical centers by Guangdong and Macao.

Ho Teng-iat, president of the General Women's Association of Macao, told Xinhua that the plan could bring opportunities for Macao to share the land resources, the pool of professionals and large scientific and technological equipment with Guangdong under the mechanism of mutual discussion, joint construction, joint administration and shared benefits between the two sides.

"It will help enhance the sense of gain, happiness and security for residents at the Greater Bay Area, including Macao," Ho said.This aerial photo taken on Aug 18, 2020, shows the Hengqin Port between Macao and Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong province. (DENG HUA / XINHUA)

Ian Soi-kun, chairman of the Macao Jiangmen Communal Society, said Macao should step up its efforts to invite outside investments on major projects in the industries of health, high-tech, exhibition, modern finance and culture and sports, in accordance with the strategic positioning and overall planning of the in-depth cooperation zone and on the basis of Macao's practical situations.

Lao Chi-ngai, chairman of the Macao Economic Association, said the plan has set guiding policies on various fronts such as management system, industrial development, residential living and cross-border linkage, which gives clear directions coupled with maneuverability and flexibility.

Opportunities for different sectors

Song Yonghua, rector of the University of Macao, said the plan will help Macao explore appropriate marketization for its higher education sector, which has long been held back by limited space and market.

"According to the plan, the cooperation zone will continuously improve the convenience of customs clearance between Macao and Hengqin, which will help promote cross-border personnel exchange and therefore, effectively stimulate the vitality of teaching, learning and scientific research," said Song.

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Experts from the tourism industry believed the plan will greatly benefit Macao's tourism and leisure industry with its simplification of the cross-border flow of goods and personnel, investments and financing.Tourists visit the Ruins of St. Paul's in south China's Macao on May 3, 2021, the third day of China's five-day May Day holiday. (CHEONG KAM KA / XINHUA)

Wong Fai, president of the Macao Leisure Tourism Services Innovation Association, said the cooperation zone will provide bigger development space for Macao's leisure and tourism industry employers and help push for the upgrading and transformation of the industry.

"Measures such as exemption of investment income tax will attract more small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to invest in the zone," Wong said.

Ip Sio-kai, president of the Macao Association of Banks, said the plan laid out major arrangements for supporting the development of modern finance and cross-border finance, with the new policy of free flow of cross-border capital and convertible capital accounts between Macao and Hengqin being a major innovation in the financial industry.

"This will provide a broad market and powerful policy support for the future development of Macao's financial industry," said Ip.

Ip Kuai-peng, pro-rector of the City University of Macao, said Macao should take full advantage of the "one country, two systems" principle and its status as an international free trade port, as well as Hengqin's advantages in geographical location, resources and space, to make utmost efforts to focus on prioritized sectors and develop new industries, in aligning with the Guangdong provincial government and the Zhuhai municipal government.

"Macao should endeavor to help build a new integrated high-level opening up system between Hengqin and Macao to make the cooperation zone a new demonstration of the practice of 'one country, two systems,'" he said, suggesting efforts to start with hierarchical management and talent introduction.