Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has told reporters he expects to continue the government’s annual cash handout next year, while public servants’ salaries would probably not be raised in 2021.
Ho made the remarks on the sidelines of Thursday’s local dragon boat races, according to a statement by the Government Information Bureau (GCS).
Ho was quoted as saying that the “wealth-sharing” handout scheme would continue next year, provided that it wouldn’t be too controversial, considering that it was a type of government expenditure that directly benefits the population.
The cash handout has been paid out by the government annually since 2008. This year, permanent residents received MOP 10,000 (US$1,254), while non-permanent residents received MOP 6,000.
Ho said the government had no intention of lowering its expenditure on public welfare. The government’s financial reserves exceed MOP 500 billion.
The chief executive, who has been at the helm of the local government since last December, instructed public administration entities earlier this month to reduce their current expenditure by 10 per cent next year, considering the adverse impact by the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy.
Meanwhile, Ho also said on Thursday that the government would not lower public servants’ salaries. However, he also hinted that the public servants’ salaries would not be raised next year, considering that private sector salaries have been declining in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. He said that a salary raise for public servants under the current circumstances could be expected to have an adverse impact on civil society as a whole. He stressed that all people in Macao should be ready to face the current difficulties together.
Macao’s about 32,000 public servants’ salaries were raised by 3.5 per cent as of January. Economists have noted that Macao’s public servants are among the best paid in the world.
Macao’s economy has been severely affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Its first COVID-19 case was confirmed on January 22, while its 46th case was confirmed today, after a hiatus of newly confirmed cases of 77 days.
Meanwhile, according to the GCS statement, Ho indicated that the government would be very careful in easing its border travel curbs, stressing that the travel restrictions would only be relaxed in close cooperation with the mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities. However, he also said that he expected “good news” on the travel front next month but was quick to add that he wasn’t able to confirm anything for the time being.
Macao’s vitally important tourism and gaming industries depend heavily on visitors from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong. Visitor arrival and casino revenue figures have fallen by over 90 per cent since the Chinese New Year in late January.