Since its return to the motherland 20 years ago, Macau has made great strides in economic development and achieved prosperity and stability, which should be attributed to the region’s comprehensive and accurate understanding and implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, the incoming chief executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR) Ho Iat Seng said.
“I will continue to unite all walks of Macau society to push forward the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ so that it goes far and steady to build a more prosperous and beautiful Macau,” Ho, who was elected in August and appointed in September as Macau’s fifth-term chief executive, told Xinhua in an interview ahead of Macau’s 20th anniversary of its return to the motherland on Friday next week.
‘One country, two systems’ key to success
Born in Macau in 1957, Ho witnessed the great and fast changes Macau has experienced since its return to the motherland. The region’s once depressed economy has been growing continuously and rapidly during the past 20 years, with its gross domestic product (GDP) soaring to US$54.6 billion last year from US$6.1 billion in 1999 and per capita to US$82,600 in 2018 from US$14,000 in 1999.
“The accurate implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ has helped Macau maintain its harmony and stability, creating a solid foundation for the rapid economic development and continuous improvement of people’s livelihood,” Ho pointed out.
Ho said one key point in Macau’s success in implementing the “One Country, Two Systems” is that the MSAR has always maintained close coordination with the central government, and met all requirements made by the central government.
Ho, who served as the president of the MSAR’s fifth and sixth Legislative Assembly, said that the majority of Macau’s Legislative Assembly members are loyal to the country and Macau and when they put forward different views they aim to monitor and cooperate with the MSAR government to achieve better administration instead of opposing the government blindly.
Another factor in Macau’s success in implementing the “One Country, Two Systems” is that it has stuck to patriotic education in schools. Patriotic textbooks have been used in primary up to high school education and all schools hold national flag-hoisting ceremony regularly, which has helped strengthen young people’s sense of national pride and national identity, Ho said.
He said he would give serious consideration to education experts’ proposal to set up a patriotic education base in Macau as cultivating patriotism is a long-term task.
“Facing the future, Macau must maintain its harmonious and stable social environment as well as its patriotic spirit. Otherwise, society may encounter strong negative shocks.”
It is not an easy task to maintain unity considering Macao’s diverse social structure and numerous community associations, he acknowledged. However, all sectors of society have the common goal of building a strong Macau and successfully implementing the “One Country, Two Systems”.
“I believe that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ will continue to go smoothly and successfully and be well received by the people.”
Promoting moderate economic diversification
Scheduled to be sworn in as the new chief executive on Friday next week. Ho has vowed to continue pushing forward the moderate diversification of Macau’s economy by investing more in scientific and technological research to develop high value-added industries.
The average monthly salary in Macau has reached about US$2,400, much higher than some developing economies in Southeast Asia. As a result, developing high value-added industries such as the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) industry, instead of labour-intensive industries, should be the right direction in the economic diversification. Ho said.
The MSAR government has invested a lot to develop the TCM industry in Hengqin. In the future the government will continue to promote the setting-up of more enterprises and supporting industries and increase exports to Portuguese-speaking countries and Southeast Asian countries, Ho said.
Ho stressed the importance to continue developing the gaming industry in a healthy and proper manner as it is Macau’s pillar industry and the most important source of revenue, sustaining the region’s health care, education, elderly care and other social welfare services.
Ho has also pledged to make efforts in improving the public administration, boosting people’s livelihood, cultivating more talents and developing cultural cooperation. The government will also invest more in infrastructure and increase the supply of housing to better meet the people’s needs.
After 20 years’ development, Macau has reached a high level in social welfare expenditure. In the future the government should pay more attention to optimizing its resources and spend the money in a more reasonable and efficient manner, he stressed.
Integrating into the overall development of the country
In the outline development plan of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA) unveiled earlier this year by the central government, Macau, listed as one of the four core cities in the GBA, should play the role of core engine for regional development. Ho said this arrangement is a great opportunity for Macau and will greatly boost its future development.
Given its tiny land and population, Macau needs to leverage its own advantages and achieve mutual benefit and win-win with other GBA cities, Ho said.
“Macau needs to make the best of its position of ‘one centre, one platform, one base’ and actively integrate itself into the overall development of the country,” he said.
As for building Macau into a world centre of tourism and leisure, Ho said Macau is actively pushing forward tourism exchanges and cooperation with cities in the GBA and exploring multi-destination tourism.
On setting up a service platform for trade cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. Ho said Macau’s cultural background and legal system are similar to that of some Portuguese-speaking countries and it also enjoys close economic and trade ties with these countries. Macau will take advantage of these ties and help boost China’s exchanges and cooperation with these countries.
Ho expressed confidence in building Macau into a cultural exchange and cooperation base with Chinese culture as the mainstream and the coexistence of different cultures. Different cultures have always coexisted harmoniously in Macau and seniors in families can also live peacefully with the younger generations although they may have different religious beliefs, he said. “Macau will improve protection and management of its cultural relics and make more contributions to cultural exchanges between China and the West.”
Talking about the National People’s Congress’ (NPC) decision in October to authorize the MSAR’s jurisdiction over the Hengqin checkpoint and adjacent areas, Ho said this move fully demonstrated the central government’s strong support for Macau to integrate into the overall development of the country, and will greatly promote the development of the GBA as well as its infrastructure connectivity and smooth flow of personnel and goods between Macao and the mainland.
“We hope the central government and all departments will continue to provide proper help to the MSAR for it to maintain prosperity and stability. Macau will also try its best to make greater contributions to the overall development of the country,” he said.