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Hengqin a real chance economic diversification

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In an exclusive interview with MDTimes, the President of Macau Development Strategies Studies Centre and Legislative Assembly member Sio Chi Wai said the Hengqin development zone a stone’s throw away from Coloane, will provide a genuine opportunity for Macau to diversify its economy heavily reliant on gaming industry. The following is a summary of the interview.

Macau Daily Times - What do you think of Hengqin’s potential in Macau’s long-lasting but yet-to-succeed initiative of economic diversification?
Sio Chi Wai - Macau has a clear and correct orientation for its economic diversification, and that is to build itself as a world tourism and leisure hub. We already have successfully laid the foundations for this objective, our tourism industry is very well-developed, we’ve got the most unique tourist attractions, world heritage sites and historic architectures, as well as the history as “China’s southern door to the world”, where the eastern and western cultures merged perfectly. But we have serious limitations, and they are our space and human resources. Macau is too small in its size as everybody knows. We have been thinking about the ways to expand the scope of its attractions outside our current domain, and Hengqin, which is triple Macau in its size, provides us with the space we much needed to build those things we don’t have and which are essential for leisure tourism, such as wet land parks and theme parks, as well as new resorts and hotels closer to nature.
MDT - The gaming operators are also expanding to Hengqin?
SCW - But they are not allowed to run casinos there, so there is no worry they will botch the economic diversification. Of course they may operate non-gaming business in Hengqin. These businessmen are well aware of the commercial opportunities there, and well aware of the mainland Chinese market. They have been operating successfully and it’s very natural for those currently based on Macau to eye the neighbouring market and look for new investment chances. But we should not label them with the “gaming” tag and think of all their business as gaming.

MDT - How about the potentials in other areas?
SCW - There is the new campus of University of Macau, to be completed in 2012, and then there will be zones for Chinese medicine industry, for high-tech industries, as well as conventions and exhibitions. Even the small and medium sized companies will find new chances there, in retail and other business. One more important point is that the area will provide a very precious connection for regional co-operation, and for Macau to further integrate itself into the Chinese economic entity which opens up a new era for our younger generation to expand their career path. Hengqin is a spring board for them to jump into the huge Chinese market.

MDT -How about the progress on the whole project?

SCW - I expect the main road network to be finished in one or two years, and then the management policies will be formulated. I expect the area will be opened 24 hours to Zhuhai.

MDT - What do you think about the changes proposed for the crossing point at Barrier Gate?
SCW - Political leaders are mentioning different kinds of options, including a new crossing check point, or extension of opening hours at Barrier Gate. But to set up a new border crossing is not a simple thing Macau can do by itself. It concerns Zhuhai and other Guangdong cities. People have mentioned many spots as possible options, including a sea port as new crossing. I have no objection to the choice of position, but we have to think of the feasibility. You don’t just set up an immigration check point, how about immigration officials and customs officers? Macau is very limited in human resources. The real concern for new border crossing is a shortage of manpower, which is always a problem here, and you can’t import immigration and customs officers like restaurant waiters. So it might be more viable to do them step-by-step, like extending a few hours, and employing more advanced technologies to speed up document checking at the present crossing points.


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