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Ex-Macau Governor dies at 78

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image During his time in Macau, Almeida e Costa ‘won some supporters but also many grudges’, Leonel Alves said

Vasco Almeida e Costa, Governor of Macau between 1981 and 1986, passed away on Sunday afternoon at the age of 78, in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, following a prolonged illness. Lawmaker Leonel Alves told Macau Daily Times that the admiral “was a key player in a new period of the territory’s history,” not only for his clashes with the local Portuguese and Macanese communities, but also for launching several reforms and pushing forward the construction of the international airport.
In 1975, Almeida e Costa was nominated minister of Internal Affairs in Portugal and became acting prime minister in the final month of his mandate, after prime minister Pinheiro de Azevedo suffered a heart attack. A few years later, in June 1981, he became Governor of Macau.

Almeida e Costa reformed the public Administration and brought to the territory ‘hundreds of Portuguese specialists,’ Costa Antunes said

Almeida e Costa “had his own personality,” Leonel Alves said, “and chose a somewhat radical path. He won some supporters but also many grudges”.
“The development path he chose led to a balance shift in the community and a political crisis,” the Macau Government Tourist Office president Costa Antunes told the MDT.
The conflicts reached a peak on February 1984, when the admiral set in motion the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly. “It was totally needless and the reaction was very negative,” Alves explained.
Meanwhile, Almeida e Costa changed the electoral registration law and “kick-started a massive participation of the Chinese community in politics,” he added.
However, at the September 1984 elections, the Macanese leader, Carlos d’Assumpção, was re-elected as president of the Legislative Assembly. “It actually had some positive effects, namely a stronger union between the Macanese and the Portuguese,” Alves recalled. “Not all his decisions were perhaps the best and it’s too bad it wasn’t possible to avoid the clash that left a bitter taste in the Macanese community,” Costa Antunes said.

‘Disruption into modernity’

Nonetheless, when Almeida e Costa went back to Portugal, after May 1986, the territory had changed. “He was the Governor that brought disruption and led Macau to modernity,” Alves said.
“Before him, Macau was a Portuguese province with lowly development levels and a very weak administrative structure,” the lawmaker stressed.
“Tap water was yellow, there were regular power shortages around 10 pm, you had to go to the post office to call Portugal and there was no waste collection,” Costa Antunes recalled.
Almeida e Costa reformed the public Administration and brought to the territory “hundreds of Portuguese specialists,” he added. “It was a big step forward for the planning of the city’s urban growth and infra-structure,” Costa Antunes said.
But he also launched “the first phase of the local tourism’s internationalisation,” economist Sales Marques told MDT.
Almeida e Costa tried to “modernise Macau’s economic structure” by searching for “other tourism solutions beyond the traditional gaming,” he said. The success was moderate, Sales Marques claimed, as “a few international hotel chains came, while other promised but never did.”
Furthermore, “there was an opening and a bigger integration of Macau on a regional level,” particularly in the banking and financial sector, he said. Other elements were introduced, Sales Marques added, that “helped the future growth of the territory, including telecommunication reforms.”

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