Curbs on graft and casinos give Macau a lift Macau people upset about social ills have received a dose of encouragement from their government's new steps to counter graft, share wealth and curb casino growth. Unionists expect the smallest turnout in years for the annual Labour Day protest next week, pointing to positive changes in polices and the Olympic torch relay to be held in the enclave on May 3. Tang Kuok-leong, a veteran labour activist heading the Macau Public Cleaners' Association, said his group would probably stay away from the rally. 'New policies such as the big giveaway and measures to control casinos have certainly eased people's bitterness,' he said, 'Even if it goes ahead, this year's rally will be a small and low-key event.' The 2-billion-pataca giveaway announced by Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah on Tuesday will see every permanent Macau resident receive a one-off 5,000 patacas. Meanwhile, the government earmarked 12 plots of land totalling 42,300 square metres for public housing. It also pledged to hire only local workers for any public works project that costs less than 10 million patacas, in response to criticism about the level of labour imports. Mr Ho said he was following President Hu Jintao's instruction to address Macau's problems. Renovation worker Kenny Lao, 48, said he was happy with the government's latest moves, although more should be done to restore public trust in the administration. 'Casinos are getting out of hand so it's good to keep them under control. But the government must do something to improve our health care as medical charges keep rising.' Public confidence received a boost when graft-busters dug deeper into the Ao Man-long graft scandal, holding a relative of Mr Ho for investigation and sending his case to the Public Prosecutions Office, where charges may be laid. The South China Morning Post first reported that Chan Lin-ian, the brother-in-law of Mr Ho's brother, was implicated in the scandal. Political commentator Larry So Man-yum said Macau residents had a more favourable impression of the Commission Against Corruption. 'It was widely believed the commission could only catch 'small flies', but now it appears to people that the graft-busters are seriously hard at work and are capable of seizing 'tigers'.' The government said it would not comment on the Chan case because it was being handled by the judiciary. Casino-driven wealth has made Macau the richest place in Asia in terms of gross domestic product per capita. Its per capita GDP surged 26 per cent to US$36,357 last year. But the boom has brought with it unwanted side effects, and a widening wealth gap has left many residents feeling embittered. Inflation in Macau was 9.49 per cent last month. The food and beverage index rose 16.33 per cent, while charges for medical consultations were up nearly 25 per cent. On May 1 last year, more than 6,000 people staged a violent protest that left 21 police officers and dozens of demonstrators injured. An officer fired shots into the air during clashes and one bullet hit a motorcyclist. So far, only two small unions have indicated they will protest on Labour Day. Others are wavering or have decided against a rally. Mr Tang said his group felt loath to spoil the celebrations leading to the Olympic torch relay. 'It's a big event for our country ... There are many other days we can protest,' he said, adding that fellow workers did not want to see pro-Tibet protesters mixed into their rally. An array of festive events has been planned for Thursday, including a lakeside magic show, a pop concert featuring Hong Kong stars and gatherings to celebrate the Olympics.