Beijing frees up more land for Macau development projects

Commentator and Macau observer said move had ‘tremendous economic and political implications’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 10:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 11:31am

Macau – one of the smallest and most densely-populated cities on the planet – looks set to get a little bit bigger as Beijing ramps up its drive to turn the casino town into a mass-market international tourism hub.

A top mainland development official has said that more land – over and above the 5 sq km of mainland real estate already set aside on Hengqin Island for the former ­Portuguese enclave – was on offer

The reverse land grab – which was not quantified – follows a visit by Premier Li Keqiang two months ago, during which he heaped praise on the city’s efforts to diversify its economy.

It also coincides with this week’s announcement that just short of HK$11 billion is to be pumped into an ­expansion of Hong Kong’s Disneyland theme park on Lantau which in the near future will be connected to Macau and Zhuhai by a road bridge.

Speaking this week at the 2016 Guangdong-Macau Industrial Cooperation Park meeting, in ­Macau, a senior mainland development official said an as yet unspecified amount of land was available for Macau developments.

The director-general of the Hengqin New Area Administrative Committee, Niu Jing, said: “I have been saying for years, that regarding Hengqin’s lands, besides the park there are other lands prepared for Macau’s projects.”

“As long as the projects are good, and as long as they can have the effect of pushing forward the diversification of Macau’s ­industry, we are willing to provide land and resources. If Macau projects need big pieces of land, we will supply them,” Niu said.

Political commentator and long time Macau observer, Sonny Lo, said the move had “tremendous economic and political ­implications”.

“Together with the rapid economic interaction between the mainland and Taiwan – which is not without its obvious difficulties – the overall geopolitical and economic developmental strategy of Beijing is taking shape.

“That is an informal – for the moment – southern Chinese ­economic union leading to a more formal union as Hong Kong and Macau approach 2047 and 2049 – the end of 50 years of no change after the two special ­administrative region’s respective return to Chinese sovereignty,” Lo said.

Lo added that Beijing appears to realise that the space for ­development in Macau is insufficient and that Henqin would likely be integrated into Macau “at some point” .

“Exactly how this will happen will also become clearer as the 2047 and 2049 landmark dates loom into view,’’ he added.