After much criticism, lawmakers Tuesday passed the outline of a government-initiated amendment bill on the usage of Macau’s scarce land resources.
Macau’s land area amounts to just about 30 square kilometres.
A total of 22 lawmakers voted in favour of the bill while two – Au Kam San and Antonio Ng Kuok Cheong, both members of the grassroots New Macau Association (NMA), voted against the bill. Outspoken civil service unionist Jose Pereira Coutinho abstained.
Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io and other senior officials including Lands, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) Director Jaime Carion attended the plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle to discuss the bill with lawmakers.
During the meeting, which was presided over by Legislative Assembly Vice President Ho Iat Seng as President Lau Chak Va was absent, several lawmakers strongly criticised the bill.
Macau General Union of Neighbourhood Associations (commonly known as Kai Fong) Vice President Ho Ion Sang criticised the bill for lacking a mechanism to guarantee the participation of members of the general public in decisions concerning the use of the city’s land resources.
He also slammed the bill for allowing the government to have too much power in making decisions on how the land should be used.
Coutinho also said he found it unacceptable that the bill was excessively “flexible” and that the government’s power was more than it should be in that respect.
Developer Fong Chi Keong also questioned the government as to why the bill still retained the possibility of land leases not having to be put out to public tender.
“Land can make huge profits… it is so scarce I cannot understand why the government still retains the exemptions [the possibility of land leases not put out to public tender], which will allow some people to make huge profits out of it,” Fong was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying, slamming the bill for its failure to embody fairness.
On Monday, the first of the two-day plenary session on the proposed law , several other lawmakers also criticised the bill for the four types of exemptions allowing the possibility of land leases not being put out to public tender.
Responding to lawmakers’ criticisms, Lau said yesterday that the government’s power in the bill was restricted and vowed to work with lawmakers to improve the bill.
According to the bill, generally most of the land to be leased should be put out to public tender but there are some exemptions because of “public interest.”
The plots of land that do not need to be put out to public tender are those that are to be used for non-profit educational establishments, cultural, public health, sports, social welfare and public utility services and that are in line with the government’s infrastructure plans and urban planning.
After the vote, Ng and Au said in a joint appeal that there should be a mechanism in place which would ensure the legislature has the right to hold a debate on all plots of land leased without public tender.
Lawmakers will continue discussing details of the bill in a standing committee before voting on it for a second and final article-by-article vote in another plenary session.(macaunews)