Macau to offer land by public bid

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2007, 12:00am

Macau will start a process of open bidding for residential land later this year, Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah said yesterday.

He also announced an abrupt suspension of the city's investment immigration scheme from today.

'In some suitable areas, the government will carry out public bidding for zoning land for residential development,' Mr Ho told the legislature. 'People will have no excuse to allege money-power collusion.'

But the scheme will not cover land for casino-hotel development, which is spearheading the property boom.

Macau's Land Law requires land disposal be carried out through public bidding, with exceptions allowed only with the chief executive's permission. Yet since the 1999 handover, only one plot of land in 400 has been sold through public bidding.

Critics said the city's zoning system lacked transparency and planning, with the intended use of land being changed at random and at the whim of developers, who often paid below market value then had land rezoned for more profitable ventures. Zoning controversies dogged former urban planning minister Ao Man-long long before he was charged with corruption in December.

Legislator Au Kam-san has questioned Mr Ho about a suspect case of zoning first reported by the South China Morning Post last week.

A newly reclaimed site was awaiting zoning approval for a casino, but a developer had already put up a sign bearing its name and deployed bulldozers to clear the site. The 8,100-square-metre plot near the Wynn casino will house a casino-hotel belonging to Star Cruises.

'A hotel development syndicate submitted an application [about the site] to the government in 2002 and all sides have since been engaged in talks,' Mr Ho said, without elaborating.

He said the public bidding process would push up property prices and should not be used too widely. 'We all understand the Land Law requires open bidding but it may not be practical when it comes to zoning for tourism development. It would further push up property prices.'

While the investment immigration scheme will be suspended indefinitely, about 4,000 applications on file will still be processed. Critics said the scheme, requiring investment of 1 million patacas in property and 500,000 in deposits, had caused developers to focus on building luxury housing and ignore the needs of Macau's lower income earners.