The Legislative Assembly (AL) passed its 2nd 2022 budget amendment bill yesterday in a plenary session by video conference, allowing the government to allocate MOP 35.1 billion from the Macao Special Administrative Region’s (MSAR) special reserves to tackle the rising cost of Covid-19 prevention and control measures and financial support measures for residents and businesses.
During the four-hour review and debate of the government-initiated budget amendment bill, 29 votes were cast in favour, two against and with one abstention, which allows the government’s financial support programme to start next month at the earliest.
According to the bill, the government proposed to allocate MOP 10 billion for Covid-19 prevention and control measures and financial support for the community. Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong said that the budget reinforcement was needed because of the “uncertainty” created by the current Covid-19 outbreak and the need for the government to use the additional funds as back-up spending on pandemic prevention and control measures and financial support for residents and businesses alike.
Some lawmakers urged the government to clarify how the additional MOP 10 billion would be spent, and Lei said that it would be used to boost the local economy, so that residents’ employment can be ensured.
Lei added that the government needed time to announce its plans for how the MOP 10 billion will be spent, as there were different opinions in civil society on how the money should be allocated.
According to the bill, the government proposed to allocate MOP 856 million from the MSAR special reserves to grant employees, freelancers and business operators financial support.
This would include a one-off subsidy of MOP 15,000 to be granted to eligible employees who earned up to MOP 600,000 in 2020 and 2021.
Financial Services Bureau (DSF) Director Iong Kong Leong told lawmakers that the government has no plans to expand the ceiling for taxpayers to receive financial aid, as “those earning more than MOP 600,00 in 2020 and 2021 have a relatively strong ability to withstand economic adversity”.
Lei added that the financial support was not meant for everyone, but to help those who are underemployed, on unpaid leave, not fully employed, and unable to work as they live in the city’s Red and Yellow Code areas, and was aimed at helping to “tide them over”.
According to the bill, the government proposed to allocate MOP 1.3 billion from the MSAR special reserves for the operation of public entities, comprising MOP 600 million for Covid-19 prevention and control expenditure by the Health Bureau, MOP 280 million for subsistence measures by the Municipal Affairs Bureau, and MOP 450 billion for the city’s Tourism Fund to pay quarantine hotels for their services.
Lei noted that in the past three years, including the two budget amendments, the government has allocated MOP 167.8 billion for the Covid-19 prevention and control measures. After the second budget amendment, the MSAR’s remaining special reserves amounted to MOP 557.3 billion, The Macau Post Daily reported.