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Policy Address: 2013 Cash handout rises to MOP8,000, public housing application to reopen
The Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On yesterday briefed the Legislative Assembly on his administration’s blueprint for 2013 in which he announced a cash handout increasing to MOP 8,000 as a practical measure to benefit all local residents, and the long requested reopening of the application process for public housing. Separately, a new mechanism will commence next year to evaluate the performance of senior officials.
In front of all legislators, Chui delivered his 2013 Policy Address with a major focus placed on people’s livelihoods, in which the government launched another series of monetary benefits to “sweeten up” the residents. They include a further increase in the annual cash allowance by MOP 1,000 to MOP 8,000 for permanent residents, and MOP800 more for non-permanent residents to MOP 4,800. Other increases with direct benefits to the general population include a MOP600 medical voucher and a reduction in salary income tax by as much as 30 percent, bringing the tax threshold to MOP 144,000. The tax rebate will also be increased to 60 percent to a maximum of MOP 12,000 while the subsidy and monthly pension for the elderly are going to rise to MOP 6,600 a year and MOP 3,000 per month respectively. Separately, education subsidies, electrical bill allowances, assistance for low-income families, and injection of funds into the central saving accounts will continue in 2013. The allowances, handouts and tax reductions will add up to some MOP11b.
Chui was short of surprises when it comes to housing policies, which have become the key concern against the backdrop of record-high property prices. The only new practical measure is the reopening of applications for public housing in the first quarter of next year, which includes the social housing for rental and affordable housing for sale, in order to gauge the latest level of demand by the public. He did not give new commitments on the construction of public housing estates, except to confirm the commitment to the 19,000 units already announced and the 6,300 units in the next phase of planning.
In response to the proposal of “Macau Properties for Macau Residents” which proposes selling only to local residents all residential housing on the five plots of land being reclaimed or to be reclaimed in the coastal areas, Chui only promised to give it “in-depth” consideration in terms of relevant legislation requirements and its feasibility. But he clearly stated that the zones would house residential properties made available to only local residents without offering any detail on the number of such flats or other information.
Separately, Chui promised to inject MOP 37 billion into the Social Security Fund between 2013 and 2016, and increase the financial commitment to non-tertiary education by 26 percent to MOP5.25b. He also pledged to optimize the public medical services network with an aim to offer free basic medical treatment and specialist advice to all residents as well as rehabilitation services for at least 80 percent of public hospital patients.
The CE also vowed to continue to push towards economic diversification and long-term sustainability by pledging further support to industries with the greatest potential, such as MICE, and interest-free loans to young entrepreneurs, as well as encouragement and support for local companies to establish themselves on Hengqin to take advantage of new development opportunities.
In response to growing criticism against the government’s public administration, Chui announced the start of a new mechanism to improve governance by evaluating the performance of senior government officials, holding them more accountable to the public and increasing the transparency of the administration. He also vowed to continue to streamline the structure and working procedures of the government to improve efficiency, as well as reinforce the work of the Commission Against Corruption and the Commission of Audit in a renewed effort to ensure a high degree of integrity and proper use of public resources.
In reference to the continuous education subsidy scheme that was criticized by the Commission of Audit for wasting public money, Chui said 2013 is the final year of the 3-year project and the authority will conduct a comprehensive review of the program next year to determine its effectiveness. For environmental initiatives, the authority is launching a MOP400m subsidy plan to help the transportation industry eradicate high-emission vehicles.
As to the overall economic conditions, the CE concluded positively, saying that unspecified positive growth is expected in the current budget year as GDP expanded by 12.6 percent year-on year in the first six months, with a budget reserve of MOP98.8b up to September and a foreign reserve currently standing at around MOP132.8b.
In His Own Words
“The government is greatly concerned about the impact of high inflation, especially on the less privileged groups. Therefore, before a long-term mechanism can be built to effectively deal with the problems, we need temporary or contingency measures to safeguard people’s livelihood…we suggest the cash handout be increased to MOP 8,000 next year.”
“Due to problems in execution, the government policies may not achieve the intended results in a satisfactory manner…a governance performance mechanism will be started next year to assess the results of departments’ actions, and whether they’re effectively responding to the established policies through practical action, and if their policies are up to standard: these are all important indicators. Senior officials will start to undergo evaluation first, with an aim to hold public servants more accountable to the public, and improve their sense of responsibility and awareness of service, as well as professionalism.”
“In the new year, we’ll implement the (political reform) amendments in Annex II for elections of the Legislative Assembly to ensure a fair, just and open election (…) to cultivate a harmonious political environment that is rational and open to dialogue.”
“There are many structural and deep-rooted conflicts that need to be addressed, and we’ll keep our promise of not running away from the problems (…) in the face of the difficulties that arise over our development, we will face them and solve them with courage.”
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