The Chief Executive, Mr Ho Iat Seng, held a press conference on Saturday (24 September) to announce favourable initiatives by the Central Government, for Macao’s economic recovery, local infrastructure projects, and development of the Guangdong-Macao Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin.
At the press conference, Mr Ho talked first about a meeting dedicated to those matters, that was held on Friday (23 September) in Beijing, and led by Member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Vice Premier of the State Council, and the head of the Leading Group for the Development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Mr Han Zheng. It was called to learn about the latest economic situation in Macao, and relevant work.
Mr Ho had taken part in that meeting via video link. He noted in his comments at the Saturday press conference, that President Xi Jinping and the Central Government always paid close attention to the development prospects of Macao, and that President Xi has commented on the city’s successful implementation on the “One country, two systems” principle with Macao’s characteristics.
The Central Government has offered its strong support regarding: local anti-epidemic efforts; support and easing of hardship for local business; livelihood betterment; and advancement of adequate economic diversification. The Central Government has also pledged its full support regarding infrastructure development and construction of facilities, key projects in terms of supporting people’s livelihoods. Such effort was a proactive response to the needs of the Macao public.
The Cooperation Zone in Hengqin created fresh conditions for Macao’s adequate economic diversification effort, said Mr Ho. He added that the Central Government would continue its supportive initiatives, in line with the implementation of the Master Plan of the Development of the Guangdong-Macao Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin, in order to achieve new breakthroughs for the Cooperation Zone.
Speaking at the press conference, Mr Ho said the Central Government would support the resumption of electronic visa issuance under the facilitated individual travel scheme; and gradual resumption of group tours to Macao. They would initially be available to mainland residents from the “Four provinces and one city”: first to people in Guangdong Province, and then to those in Zhejiang Province, Jiangsu Province, Fujian Province and Shanghai Municipality.
The Chief Executive expected that either by the end of October or by early November this year there would be resumption of the two measures concerning facilitation of travel to Macao for mainland residents. Thereafter, it was hoped to see approximately 40,000 travellers a day visiting Macao, he told reporters.
Increasing the number of travellers from the mainland coming to Macao was vital to the city at the current time, said Mr Ho. As resumption of such inbound travel to the city had been approved, it was equally important to maintain good work in terms of epidemic control and prevention effort, in order to maintain consistency with anti-epidemic policies in place on the mainland, he said.
There would mechanisms not only to resume – but also to suspend if necessary –travel between Macao and the “Four provinces and one city”, Mr Ho mentioned. If ever there were a severe outbreak occurring either in Macao or any of the relevant places, there would be a need to suspend travel. Subsequent resumption would not require additional approval from the Central Government. With the support of the National Health Commission, technical details of the necessary implementation mechanism would be discussed by the health authorities in those places.
At the press conference, Mr Ho detailed the Central Government’s support for major infrastructure projects, including the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system East Line. In relation to that, Macao had been given approval to lease a Zhuhai land plot of between 3,000 and 4,000 square metres, near the Border Gate. There would be improvement work over the tidal-flat area adjacent to that land plot, in order to enable the LRT East Line to pass via the Border Gate to Qingmao Port.
In addition, the Central Government had approved expansion of Macau International Airport’s runway and apron. The Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) Government would also work to launch major projects relating to supporting people’s livelihoods, including a “Macao ecological island”. Material dredged as a result of the tidal-flat remediation work needed for the future LRT East Line, would be used for the ecological island, the latter to be located in a deep-water area of the Pearl River Estuary. Further examination would be needed to determine a precise location for such an island, said Mr Ho
The Chief Executive said the Cooperation Zone had seen good progress in the year since its inauguration. During Friday’s videoconference, there had been discussions regarding progress of the “first tier” and “second tier” elements of the Cooperation Zone, said Mr Ho. Friday’s meeting also agreed to implement relevant financial policies at the earliest possible opportunity. They included exempting import tax and turnover tax in the Cooperation Zone. Such effort aimed to converge the tax environment in the Cooperation Zone, with regulations in place in Macao. This was in order to speed up the integrated development of Macao and Hengqin, and foster Macao’s adequate economic diversification.
During Saturday’s press conference, the Chief Executive thanked the Macao public for showing understanding amid the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Noting the pandemic had wrought significant challenges for the city’s economy, the MSAR Government thanked the Central Government for its support, and for convening Friday’s meeting specifically to discuss Macao, and to resolve the city’s pressing issues.
Macao had to revitalise its tourism, in order to restore vitality to the economy, recover people’s sense of well-being, and accelerate development as a world centre of tourism and leisure, said Mr Ho. The MSAR Government would work in compliance with the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan, the city’s second Five-Year Development Plan, and the Master Plan for the Cooperation Zone, to speed up work regarding local adequate economic diversification, he said.