Macau residents have had to endure an inefficient government
One month after Typhoon Hato lashed Macau, I was chatting with friends about how troops from the People’s Liberation Army were mobilised to help with the massive clean-up in the city.
Most of them agreed with the Macau government’s decision to ask the PLA to help. I do appreciate the hard work undertaken by these soldiers and the help they gave to the community. Without it, hygiene conditions would have rapidly deteriorated and it would have taken a lot longer to clear up the mess. Some may have questioned using the PLA, given that its key function in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau is defence. But it can also help an SAR government in times of emergency, such as a natural disaster like the typhoon.
One of my friends questioned that view, saying that eventually the citizens of Macau would have got rid of all the debris and that seeking the help of the PLA was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
I do think he has a point and it highlights the problems that exist in the government in Macau. The city has an estimated 36,000 civil servants, which points to overstaffing. With so many officials, cleaning up the city should have been relatively easy. But the city has been poorly governed under the administration of Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on.
Too often, policies have been implemented over the past decade which have favoured vested interests at the expense of the livelihoods of ordinary citizens. Nothing was done to protect low-lying coastal areas in the event of a typhoon as strong as Hato.
A popular government slogan is “Make maximum use of land resources”, but this has often been done without considering residents’ needs. Public areas are changed into commercial properties, benefiting only an elite. For example, during the period of Portuguese administrations, underground car parks were not allowed adjacent to the inner harbour and other vulnerable coastal areas. But now we see them all over Macau.
We need a far more efficient government, that will make the necessary infrastructure changes, particularly in coastal areas, so that the city is better able to withstand a severe storm and does not have to call in the PLA to clean up its mess.
Barnaby Ieong, Macau