What is the real reason behind plan for new Macau central library?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 October, 2016, 6:36pm

I have been to the Hong Kong Central Library in Causeway Bay many times, where there are a variety of books and facilities to be enjoyed by readers and visitors.

The location of the library is indeed well-chosen as it is very convenient to reach by means of the city’s excellent transport system and many guests are attracted to visit every year.

The Macau government recently reiterated its plan to construct a new central library in Nam Van, a downtown area always packed with travellers shopping for gold and expensive watches, and gambling options.

No one would object to the construction of a new central library since it is good for developing the good habit of reading, especially for youngsters deluged with electronic devices. But the question is, why does the Macau government persevere in trying to turn the heritage-protected Old Courthouse into the city’s new central library, an 11-storey building and a project estimated to cost about 900 million patacas?

Since the “historic centre of Macau” was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005, it has become famous for its heritage value apart from its gaming industry.

The government thus has an obligation to conserve any buildings with historical value. However, most policies over the past few years have run contrary to this purpose. Also, the government has been reluctant to spare land for building a new central library or new hospital. Instead, most precious plots were given to gaming tycoons to build extravagant casino resorts.

With the Old Courthouse scheme, many people think the government can achieve the goal of “killing two birds with one stone” – extermination of Portuguese colonial culture and transfer of benefits to businessmen. Or is the real story behind the new central library a plan to construct a new tourism icon with different commercial purposes?

Is it a business of “cry up wine and sell vinegar?” The government can’t fool the people.

Barnaby Ieong, Macau