Giveaway spurs rush for Macau residency

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 May, 2008, 12:00am

The Macau government's 2.6 billion pataca bonus has spurred a rush for residency of the special administrative region, with Hongkongers among those jostling to apply for Macau identity cards.

Right of abode applications had more than doubled since Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah announced the giveaway on April 22, Identification Bureau head Lai Ieng-kit said yesterday.

A move to 'return wealth to the public', the bonus will see every permanent resident pocket 5,000 patacas and every non-permanent resident 3,000 patacas between July and September.

'A spike in right of abode applications appeared in late April,' Mr Lai said. 'There are Hongkongers who have married Macau residents applying for right of abode.'

He said daily applications had surged from about 40 to more than 100 late last month.

To benefit, a person has to hold a valid Macau resident identity card issued on or before July 1. Non-cardholders can benefit only if they have been granted right of abode and have applied for an identity card on or before July 1.

Eligibility for right of abode depends on a person's links to Macau, such as marriage.

There are about 480,000 permanent Macau residents and 67,000 non-permanent residents.

Mr Lai said about 20,000 residents had yet to change their outdated cards for new 'smart ID' cards in order to be eligible for the giveaway.

There were about 8,000 people overseas who had the right of abode for Macau but had yet to apply for an identity card, with most living in Hong Kong.

From July 1, the government will mail a cheque to each Macau resident based on the address registered with their smart ID card.

Macau people living overseas will also receive a cheque at their registered address.

Some residents will receive the money through their bank accounts, including welfare recipients, civil servants, scholarship recipients and some teachers.

At least five government departments are co-ordinating the task of doling out the 2.6 billion patacas.

Critics have warned that the payouts might worsen Macau's inflation by spurring a spending spree.

Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak-yuen said the payment might have a 'slight impact' on inflation but it would be insignificant compared with the need to 'return wealth to the people'.

'Even if more than 1 billion patacas gets spent as a result of the subsidy scheme, it will not make a big difference to our domestic consumption, which is large and growing every year,' Mr Tam said.