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Ho apologises for ‘confusing & complicated’ e-voucher scheme

2021-03-24 03:51     Comment:0

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng yesterday apologised for the “rather complicated” arrangement of the government’s recently-announced consumption e-voucher scheme, pledging that the government will continue to listen to residents’ views about the matter before coming up with an improved proposal about the scheme which residents would find simpler than the original version.

Ho also said that if the government could not roll out the consumption e-voucher scheme in May as initially scheduled, it would have to postpone it to June or even later.

Ho underlined that different from last year’s consumption smartcard scheme which was a kind of financial support measure, the proposed consumption e-voucher scheme for this year would be a policy aiming to help Macau’s economic recovery by boosting consumption.

Ho made the remarks while speaking to reporters at the Services Platform Complex for Commercial Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries in Nam Van after attending a welcome reception marking Foreign Ministry Commissioner Liu Xianfa’s recent posting to Macau.

Since the government announced the controversial consumption e-voucher scheme on Monday last week – which is among various measures aiming to support employment, the local economy and people’s livelihoods, a considerable number of residents, activists, lawmakers and civic leaders have expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed scheme which they said was “too complicated” and could not support residents who are facing financial difficulties. They have been urging the government to simply top up its previous consumption subsidy smartcards instead.

‘Confusing & complicated’

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Ho admitted that many residents are dissatisfied with the proposed consumption e-voucher scheme. He admitted that the government did not prepare and draft the scheme’s proposal comprehensively enough before announcing it earlier this month, which he said has therefore “confused” many residents who find the scheme “complicated”, adding that, consequently, he was apologising for the matter.

Ho also apologised for government officials having failed to explain the proposed consumption e-voucher scheme clearly enough during last Monday’s press conference about the scheme.

However, Ho insisted that residents in general support the proposed consumption e-voucher scheme because of which they have given opinions that are rational, while admitting that many of them would still need time to gain a good understanding about the proposed scheme’s modus operandi.

The chief executive pledged that the government will seriously study and summarise the opinions to be gathered from civil society before coming up with an improved and optimised proposal, which the government will then announce to reach a consensus about it in civil society, enabling the government to get the scheme finally off the ground.

Ruling out smartcard top-up

Ho ruled out the possibility of the government simply topping up its previous consumption subsidy smartcards. When asked whether the government would consider topping up its consumption subsidy smartcards if residents wanted this, Ho said that it would be “difficult” for the government to implement such a measure.

Last year, the government initially issued consumption subsidy smartcards – MacauPass cards – worth 3,000 patacas for local residents, who later received a 5,000-pataca top-up. After the consumption subsidy scheme ended at the end of last year, the smartcard converted into a general MacauPass card.

Ho said that if the government chose to top up the consumption subsidy smartcards, it would need to convert the amount of money in all the cards to zero again, which he said would involve a large workload and complicated operation.

Budget amendment bill

Ho also said that as the proposed consumption e-voucher scheme would cost the government five billion patacas, the government will have to submit a bill amending its 2021 budget to the legislature for debate and vote. Ho noted that the government could only launch its consumption e-voucher scheme after the legislature passes the 2021 budget amendment bill.

“We [the government] have still not submitted the [2021 budget amendment] bill to the legislature, so there is nothing [for the government] to withdraw,” Ho said when asked by reporters whether the government would consider withdrawing the consumption e-voucher scheme.


Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng speaks to reporters at the Services Platform Complex for Commercial Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries in Nam Van yesterday. Photo: Maria Cheang Ut Meng

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