Macao’s Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng recently shared his policy address for 2024, outlining a detailed and ambitious vision for the Special Administrative Region (SAR). His roadmap for the future encompasses a broad array of sectors and themes, ranging from economic recovery and diversification to enhancing national security, improving infrastructure and fostering technological advancements.
A highlight of Ho’s address was the revitalisation of Macao’s economy. He took note of the numerous – 51 in total – public projects that were undertaken as of November of this year, each with a budget of over 100 million patacas. These initiatives collectively aimed to stimulate economic activity and job growth, providing a much-needed boost for the region’s economy. The CE’s economic forecast was optimistic, citing a striking year-on-year GDP increase of 71.5 percent in the first half of 2023 and a substantial surge in visitor numbers, though this can be mainly attributed to the re-opening of the borders after the Covid pandemic.
Economic diversification was a key theme in Ho’s address. Reflecting on the city’s traditional reliance on the gaming industry, he emphasised the government’s efforts to strengthen the local bond market and other sectors. Macao was recognised as the Best Convention City in Asia in August, a testament to the city’s ongoing mission to diversify its economic portfolio and attract a wider range of industries and visitors.
Ho complemented the economic vision with an emphasis on enhancing the standard of living and developing local infrastructure. He highlighted the introduction of new training programs and youth internships targeted at upskilling the local workforce and fostering a culture of lifelong learning. Furthermore, he noted the opening of the Islands District Medical Complex – set to open in December – which promises to significantly improve healthcare services and facilities in the region.
Technological advancements also featured prominently in Ho’s speech, showcasing the SAR’s commitment to digital transformation. Macao is preparing to launch its first digital ID card, a move that aligns with global trends towards digitisation and is expected to streamline various administrative processes for residents.
The Macao One app, a multipurpose digital platform, has received positive feedback from over half a million registered users, indicating a successful adoption of digital services by the local population.
Looking forward: 2024 and Beyond
As he turned his gaze to 2024, Ho outlined several priorities. Amidst an unstable global geopolitical landscape, bolstering national security emerged as a central focus. This involves ensuring the region’s stability and safety while also maintaining its distinct identity and culture.
Further diversifying the economy was another key priority. The CE highlighted the potential of medical and sports tourism, sectors that offer significant opportunities for growth. He also pointed to the revitalisation of parts of the old city to attract a more diverse range of visitors, thereby expanding the city’s cultural and tourism offerings. Aiding this effort will be the expansion of Air Macau’s network and greater utilisation of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. Additionally, special initiatives will be launched in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Macao’s handover next year to further boost tourism.
Attracting investment in the tech sector was identified as a priority for the coming year. This focus extends particularly to the Guangdong-Macao Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin, a region with high potential for technological development. Alongside this, the recruitment of top talent across different sectors is seen as essential for driving innovation and fostering economic growth.
On social welfare, Ho confirmed the continuation of cash handouts to eligible residents under the “wealth partaking scheme”. More than 4,600 public housing flats are expected to be completed before the end of 2024, further underlining the commitment to social welfare.
Other notable plans for 2024 include:
- Land reclamation for the airport’s expansion, beginning in the latter half of 2024
- Phasing out motorcycles and buses powered by traditional fossil fuels, and enforcing the ban on importing plastic cutlery
- Refurbishing historic buildings and protecting intangible heritage to promote cultural tourism
- Inviting topflight mainland educators to elevate local education standards
- Streamlining air transfers to Hengqin and the movement of people, goods and finance between Macao and Hengqin
- Facilitating cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries via Forum Macao’s 6th ministerial conference and related events
- Improving real-time traffic management in the city
Ho’s 2024 policy address, along with the subsequent Q&A session, set forth a clear vision for Macao’s path in the coming year. It charts a course towards economic recovery, diversification, enhanced livability and technological advancement for its residents. With many promising initiatives on the horizon and a commitment to addressing the challenges ahead, Macao’s journey into 2024 looks to be a transformative one. The city is poised not only to recover from recent economic challenges but also to emerge stronger, more diverse, and more resilient than ever before.