During a Q&A session with members of the Chief Executive Election Committee, chief executive candidate Ho Iat Seng said on Saturday that his government — if he succeeds in his election bid — will streamline Macao’s public administration system.
The Chief Executive Electoral Affairs Commission held a public session on Saturday – the first day of the chief executive election campaign period – for Ho, the sole candidate, to present his political platform to the Chief Executive Election Committee members and answer their questions. The election campaign period runs until August 23, while the election will take place on August 25.
Saturday's candidacy platform presentation-cum-Q&A session — which started at 10 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m. — at the Macao East Asian Games Dome in Cotai was, according to government-owned broadcaster TDM, attended by 248 of the 400-member Chief Executive Election Committee, from which Ho obtained 379 nominations.
Directly translated from its Chinese title, Ho’s election campaign platform is headlined “Synergies, Advancing Bravely, Reforms and Innovation”.
Ho’s election as Macao’s third chief executive is a fait accompli. He will be Macao’s third chief executive, succeeding Fernando Chui Sai On on December 20.
Election Committee member Kun Sai Hoi from the professional sector asked about measures to reform the city’s public administration (PA).
Ho noted that the definition of a public servant in Macao is broader than in other countries and regions, as in Macao it also includes medical staff in public hospitals and teaching staff in the public education sector, adding that the number of Macao’s public servants stands at some 38,000.
Ho underlined that incorruptibility and integrity should always come first for public servants. Ho said that while that there is the widespread view in civil society that Macao’s public administration is not clean, he believed that the special administrative region’s widely perceived poor efficiency of its public administration is caused by certain systemic problems and the government’s approval process for certain services for its citizens, which he said might cause residents to have doubts about the public administration’s integrity.
Ho said that the Macao government has over 60 bureaus and other bureau-level entities, while the central government in Beijing has only 26 ministries that are “administering [a country with] a population of 1.4 billion”. Ho said the point in Macao is that some government entities might overlap each other, and certain overlapping functions and powers might exist in the public administration. Ho said that consequently, Macao’s public administration structure needed to be streamlined.
In Macao’s public administration system, bureaus and bureau-level entities are overseen by either one of the government’s five policy secretaries or directly by the chief executive.
“There are too many bureaus in Macao. One particular matter may need to pass through several bureaus before it can be completed, which slows down the process. The government will need to study whether to appropriately change the public administration structure,” Ho said.
Ho said that his future public administration reform drive would not only focus on streamlining procedures and limiting the number of public servants, but also on “devolving more powers” to lower-level entities and officials. Ho, 62, said that for certain matters, higher-level officials should devolve more powers to their subordinates. “Only after one has been given more powers, will he or she have more responsibilities,” Ho said, adding that the overlapping powers and responsibilities among different officials in Macao currently appear to confuse them.
Ho, a former speaker of the Legislative Assembly, urged Macao’s 38,000 public servants to join him in reforming the public administration “well”.
Ho, a former deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), also said that Macao ought to establish a formal system to train its public servants and set up a public servant training college in the long term.
More MICE space outside casino resorts
Election Committee member He Haiming from the business sector asked about Ho’s plans to support the local meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector in developing its business in other cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). Ho noted that while Macao’s available space for MICE events is large, most of the facilities are in casino resorts that, he said, charge relatively high fees. Ho said that consequently, the Macao government spends a lot of money on supporting local MICE activities. He said that the local MICE sector therefore needed to get its own facilities outside casino resorts. Ho said that it would be very costly if the local government needed to extend its support measures to other GBA cities in the future.
Know more about national history
Election committee member Ho Sio Kam from the educational sector asked how Ho’s future government would improve the city’s education sector and strengthen its patriotic education.
Ho, a veteran leader of Macao’s business community, noted that the local government has been spending a great deal of money on the city’s education, adding that, as an example, he had carried out a “rough calculation” showing that the local government, on average, spends 1.5 million patacas per resident on the cost of the city’s 15-year free education from kindergarten to high school plus tertiary education – the public University of Macao (UM).
According to media reports, while local students enrolled in local public tertiary educations have to pay tuition fees, the government covers most of the cost.
Ho noted that Macao currently has less than 6,000 newborns per year, adding that consequently there was room for his future government to further improve its education resources allocation. Ho said that local schools have been doing a lot in their patriotic education, adding that his future government planned to strengthen the concept of “love the country and love Macao” education, enabling young people to know more about the nation’s modern history, including the “miserable” war period and the period after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Strengthen ‘One Country, Two Systems’ implementation
Election Committee member Lam Chong from the cultural sector asked how Ho’s future government would deepen people-to-people ties between Macao and Taiwan. Ho said that a recent incident in a neighbouring region – apparently referring to the ongoing protests and violence in Hong Kong – had caused an adverse impact on the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Ho said that therefore Macao should implement the principle in a better way with the aim of allowing Taiwan to see the successful implementation of the principle in Macao. Ho pledged that his government will continue to strengthen exchanges between Taiwan and Macao in various aspects.
Dealers & drivers
Several members of the committee asked Ho whether he would promise to keep the current government’s policy of banning the hiring of non-local casino dealers and commercial drivers. Ho replied that as a candidate he should not make such a promise. But he was quick to add there was a need for the future government to continue this policy.
Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference after the Q&A session, Ho said the government should be “conservative” as far as the possible setting-up of a sovereign wealth fund is concerned. He also said that now was possibly not the right time to set up such as fund because of the “complicated global investment climate”.
According to the Macau Post Daily, Ho made the remarks after asked by a reporter about the current government’s recent decision to ask the legislature to remove the debate of its bill on the establishment of the fund from the agenda. Lawmakers removed the item from the agenda on Wednesday.
Ho also told the press conference that the current situation in Hong Kong could adversely impact Macao’s economy in the second half of the year.
(Macau News/The Macau Post Daily)