Economy ‘transitioning’ from contraction to recovery: Lei

2021-05-28 03:58     Comment:0

Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong said yesterday that Macau’s economy is “transitioning” from contraction to recovery, as suggested by the latest official statistics, adding that a more rapid economic recovery is the most important solution to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local employment situation.

Lei made the remarks when replying to oral interpellations by several lawmakers during a plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle.

A number of lawmakers said that the still ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Macau’s economy has shown that the city’s current system is unable to sufficiently protect employees affected by furloughs (employer-mandated unpaid leave) or employers defaulting on wage payments.

Directly-elected lawmaker-cum-unionist Ella Lei Cheng I noted that the government has abolished its previous system which required employers to compensate employees affected by furloughs. She said that many employees have been forced to take unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which she said indicated the necessity and importance of a system supporting employees affected by temporary layoffs. She urged the government to roll out measures to help those affected by layoffs.

Directly-elected lawmakers Leong Sun Iok, Sulu Sou Ka Hou, Au Kam San and Ng Kuok Cheong urged the government to gain a better understanding of the number of employees in various sectors who have been forced to take unpaid leave so that it would be able to figure out effective measures to support them.

Sou said that a long furlough is equivalent to a reduction in the employee’s salary. He noted that employers are required to notify the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) if they reduce their employees’ salaries, but they are not required to inform the bureau if they require their employees to take unpaid leave. He said that the government should therefore set a statutory maximum duration of unpaid leave.

To the contrary, directly-elected lawmaker-cum-building contractor Mak Soi Kun said that right now the most important and urgent task for the government was to ensure the city’s economic recovery, so now was not the right time to discuss possible improvements in its system of supporting employees affected by furloughs or employers defaulting on their wage payments.

Mak also urged the government to come up with more measures to speed up Macau’s COVID-19 vaccination rate with the aim of accelerating the city’s economic recovery.

The policy secretary did not reveal whether the government would improve its system of supporting employees affected by furloughs or employers defaulting on their wage payments.

Macau’s top economic affairs official said that based on Macau’s current situation, recovering its economy as soon as possible was the most important way to solve the various predicaments affecting employees.

GDP down 0.9 pct in Q1

Lei revealed that Macau’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year dropped 0.9 percent year-on-year in real terms, a significant reduction in the level of contraction compared to the fourth quarter of 2020, when the city’s GDP contracted 45.9 percent year-on-year in real terms.

According to the Statistics and Census Bureau (DSEC), Macau’s real GDP contracted 56.3 percent last year. The city’s output in real terms declined 48.3 percent, 67.9 percent, 63.8 percent and 45.9 percent year-on-year in the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2020 respectively.

Lei also said yesterday that Macau’s exports of services returned to year-on-year growth in the first quarter of this year, a change from year-on-year declines in previous quarters. The city’s exports of tourism services increased 88.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2021, he said.

Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong addresses yesterday’s plenary session in the Legislative Assembly’s (AL) hemicycle. Courtesy: TDM

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