Ho Iat Seng, chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region, talks during an exclusive interview with Xinhua in Macao, on Jan 10, 2023. (CHEONG KAM KA / XINHUA)
MACAO – Ho Iat Seng, chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region, has pledged to create new prospects for the "one country, two systems" practices.
During a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua, he said with sound conditions facilitated by the central authorities, the Macao SAR government will better leverage its advantages of staunch support from the motherland and connections with the world, and enhance the coupling effects of the domestic and international markets and resources to achieve new development.
Integration into national development
Since the central authorities issued a general plan for building the Guangdong-Macao in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin in neighboring city of Zhuhai in September 2021, the development of the zone has injected new energy into Macao's integration into overall national development and the enriching of the "one country, two systems" practices.
Learning from the painful experiences, Macao must achieve the goal of industrial diversification.
Ho Iat Seng, Chief Execuitve, Macao SAR
"The in-depth cooperation zone is not an ordinary development zone, but a pioneering move that requires joint administration by Macao and the mainland over an area of 106 square kilometers. There's no precedent to follow," Ho said, calling it a big issue.
In the Macao government's policy addresses for the fiscal years of 2022 and 2023, the in-depth cooperation zone was twice listed as a priority for its work agenda.
The cooperation zone provided Macao with support on land and employment, expanding the space for Macao to appropriately diversify its economy, said Ho.
During the past year, preferential tax policies were put in place for businesses and Macao residents working in Hengqin. Mainland and Macao investors could complete business registrations in Hengqin or Macao without crossing the border. Quota limits were lifted on Macao-registered private passenger vehicles to enter Hengqin.
With these solid foundations laid, the development of the cooperation zone will focus on linkages of mechanisms and rules as well as supporting facilities for people's livelihood in the future, he said.
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This year is crucial for the building of the cooperation zone and the achievement of its first-phase goals, he noted, stressing the need to use creative thinking to break the bottlenecks.
Tourists visit Macao's Senado Square on Jan 14, 2023. (CHEONG KAM KA / XINHUA)
Ho said promoting appropriate economic diversification and striving to build an appropriately diversified industrial structure is the primary task for the Macao SAR government and different walks of the society.
"Macao has no primary industry while the proportion of the secondary industry is very small," Ho said, pointing out that Macao's heavy reliance on the tertiary industry highlighted the problem of the imbalanced industrial structure that aggravated economic woes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will make efforts to see that the non-gaming industries account for around 60 percent of Macao's GDP and build a sustainable industrial structure that fits Macao's reality.
Ho Iat Seng
"Learning from the painful experiences, Macao must achieve the goal of industrial diversification.”
In the policy address for the fiscal year of 2023, a strategy was put forward to achieve economic diversification by building Macao into a world tourism and leisure center and continuously advance the development of major industries of big health, modern finance, high technologies, conventions and exhibitions, as well as culture and sports.
In June 2022, the revision to Macao's gaming laws was approved and took effect. Near the end of the year, a new round of gaming concession tendering was completed.
“We will make efforts to see that the non-gaming industries account for around 60 percent of Macao's GDP (gross domestic product) and build a sustainable industrial structure that fits Macao's reality," he said.
Noting that the process of industrial diversification takes time and faces difficulties, Ho said this barrier must be crossed to avoid having to face the same problem again in the future.
Safeguarding national security
Firmly safeguarding national security and maintaining social stability was also listed as one of the priorities for governance in the Macao SAR government's policy address for 2023.
The Macao SAR will always work to ensure that the political power and the power of governance are held firmly in the hands of patriots so as to consolidate the socio-political foundation for the steady and sustained development of "one country, two systems", Ho old Xinhua.
Since 2009, Macao has completed legislation on safeguarding national security as stipulated in the Basic Law of the Macao SAR, established the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Macao SAR chaired by the chief executive, amended supporting laws, stepped up the building of the enforcement team, promoted education on the subject, and improved the election system for the Legislative Assembly.
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In 2022, the SAR government steadily progressed with the amendment to the law on safeguarding national security in Macao.
"Safeguarding national security is the constitutional responsibility of the Macao SAR," Ho said, adding that the law amendment was a move to obligate the responsibility.
The Macao SAR government stated in its second five-year plan that the election system will be improved to ensure that the power of governance is firmly held in the hands of patriots.
Tourists visit the famous Ruins of St. Paul's in Macao, south China on Jan 18, 2023. (CHEONG KAM KA / XINHUA)
Macao was hit hard by COVID-19 in 2022, which led to suspension of major business activities, posing unprecedented downward pressure on the macro economy.
"Now, the haze is dissipating. Macao's economic and social development is gradually recovering," Ho said.
Looking back, Ho said the Macao SAR had formulated epidemic control policies in accordance with the central government's general principle during the past three years, while working to meet people's livelihood requirements, guarantee social stability, and maintain personnel, business and trade exchanges with the mainland.
The long-term goal has to be promoting appropriate diversification, which is the only way for Macao to solve its underlying conflicts and problems in socio-economic development.
Ho Iat Seng
On Jan 8, nearly 40,000 visitors entered Macao, about 1.5 times higher than the daily average number of inbound visitors in 2022.
“You can see more people on the streets. Macao's economic vitality is coming back," Ho said, stressing that the Macao SAR will, first and foremost, make sound arrangements to welcome visitors, including implementation of policies allowing mainland residents to apply online for visas to Macao and for group tours.
As stated in the policy address for 2023, the Macao SAR faces two important and urgent tasks to speed up economic recovery and promote appropriate diversification.
"Economic recovery is a short-term goal. The long-term goal has to be promoting appropriate diversification, which is the only way for Macao to solve its underlying conflicts and problems in socio-economic development," he added.
Noting that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law of the Macao SAR, Ho said Macao has ushered in a good start of the year, with multiple favorable factors emerging.
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The current priority for the Macao SAR government is to focus on economic work and improve people's livelihood, hoping to achieve economic recovery and new development by actively integrating into the country's economic circulation and realizing Macao's appropriate economic diversification, he said.
"Macao faces a very good development opportunity. I'm confident that the SAR government together with Macao residents can seize the opportunity and work for a turn to the better," Ho added.