Dynamic center is ready for business
HISTORICALLY KNOWN AS A GAMBLERS' PARADISE, MACAU IS DEVELOPING A NEW-FOUND BUSINESS CONFIDENCE. AS TESTIMONY TO ITS BIG-BUDGET INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS AND EVENT MANAGEMENT SKILLS IT WILL PLAY HOST TO THE 2005 EAST ASIAN GAMES. WHILE ITS INDIVIDUALITY ATTRACTS BOTH VISITORS AND INVESTORS, THE TERRITORY ALSO STANDS TO GAIN FROM CHINA'S ECONOMIC GROWTH

Though a fraction of the size of Hong Kong, its larger neighbor lying just across the Pearl River, Macau has transformed itself into a modern and dynamic business center with a mature political system

THE FORMER Portuguese colony of Macau – now a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China – has been transformed in recent decades from little more than a sleepy fishing port with a passion for gambling into a modern and dynamic business center.
The local government has cracked down on street crime, making Macau a safer place to live and visit, and has invested heavily in new infrastructure. The territory is ideally positioned to serve the Guangdong area of mainland China on the less developed western bank of the Pearl River delta.

Since it was officially handed over to China on December 19, 1999, two years after Hong Kong’s return to the mainland, the economy of Macau has blossomed.
Though still a fraction of the size of its bustling neighbor – which lies just across the Pearl River – there is a growing vibrancy to the city.
It has weathered the storm of the Asian financial meltdown in 1997 and, after a period of contraction, economic growth has resumed. In 2001, GDP growth reached 2.1 percent; the year before it hit 4.6 percent. There is affluence once again. Macau's per capita GDP stood at $14,281 last year, the second highest in the delta region and one of the highest in Asia.

The opening of the landmark 1,109-foot Macau Tower at the end of 2001 highlights the territory’s new confidence. The tenth-tallest freestanding tower in the world, it is now a focal point for the city’s conventions and entertainment industry. In 2005, Macau will host the East Asian Games – testimony to its state-of-the-art transportation infrastructure and event-management skills.

EDMUND HO HAU WAH
EDMUND HO HAU WAH
Chief Executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region

Though still a haven for gamblers – the casino and entertainments sector accounts for nearly two-thirds of GDP – there have been great efforts to diversify. Tourism is increasingly important, with Macau attracting over 10 million visitors last year; there is also garment manufacturing and other small-scale industries.
Edmund Ho Hau Wah, Chief Executive of the SAR, says that Macau is open and ready for business. He praises the patience of his 437,000 people during the transformation process. “After the financial crisis of 1997, the tragedy of September 11 in the United States, and global recession, people everywhere else had become impatient,” he says.

The administration took decisive action this year, introducing stimulative policies – tax relief, public-works programs and job-creation schemes – to alleviate those affected by recession. Mr. Ho Hau Wah stresses that the “development of a society takes time and no government can achieve its goals without reasonable people and patience.”

The political system in Macau has also matured. The first legislative elections since the transition took place in 2001, a further guarantee of autonomy from Beijing. It has bolstered relations with the U.S., its main trading partner, whose overall stance is that the territory should continue to develop in a positive fashion under Chinese sovereignty.
According to former U.S. Consul General Michael Klosson, who completed his term in Macau and Hong Kong earlier this year, the local government projects a new “vitality” and “vigor”, which is helping to drive development. The territory is home to around 600 Americans.

On the economic front, the liberalization of the gaming sector, breaking a 40-year monopoly, is a crucial step forward and an indicator of things to come. As well as bringing in much-needed foreign investment, it is expected to result in the creation of more than 10,000 new jobs and confirm Macau’s status as a global gaming and entertainments venue.

Macauís unique culture is attractive to investors and irresistible to visitors

In March 2001, the government signed three new gaming concessions – one with local casino tycoon Dr. Stanley Ho, and two more with established Las Vegas entrepreneurs Sheldon Adelson of Galaxy Casinos and Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts.

The end of Dr. Ho’s gaming monopoly is evidence that Macau is keen to build a competitive marketplace. Mr. Adelson’s Galaxy Casinos will offer an indoor version of Venice’s Grand Canal, complete with singing gondoliers, while Mr. Wynn is pledging to create a “Disney for adults”. Dr. Ho’s casino empire will also receive a makeover. He is investing millions of dollars in new gaming facilities and associated tourism initiatives, such as the Fisherman’s Wharf recreational complex.

Susana Chou, President of the SAR legislative assembly, believes the government has taken exactly the right line in its approach to the gaming industry. Macau cannot deny its gambling roots, yet it needs to take a firmer grip on the industry. “Control it, break the monopoly, but strengthen control for the safety of the Macau people and for the safety of the tourists,” she says.
After 400 years as a Portuguese colony, Macau is now very much a part of China and stands to gain much from the mainland’s growing economic stature. Yet it retains an individuality, a unique Sino-European culture, that is irresistible to visitors and attractive to investors.

There is still work ahead if Macau is to step out of the shadow of its larger neighbor, Hong Kong. On a practical note, for example, there are great efforts to change former colonial laws into new Chinese basic law.
Jorge Costa Oliveira, Director of the International Law Office, a unit within the Justice Department, is involved in the complex, inter-regional legal framework between Macau, the mainland and Hong Kong. “In economic terms, it’s one country, two systems; in legal terms, it’s one country three systems,” he explains.
Macau’s guiding light, Mr. Ho Hau Wah, believes that the principle behind the ‘one country, two systems’ motto – used during the handover of both Macau and Hong Kong to Beijing – remains sound.
As well as stronger ties with China, Macau is nurturing relations with the rest of the world, including the U.S., to establish its position as a jumping-off point for relations between the two powers.
Mr. Ho Hau Wah, a former banker, says central government support, coupled with a new partnership with local entrepreneurs, will continue to drive development. Macau is catching up fast with the bright lights of Hong Kong, shimmering just across the water.

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