The Legislative Assembly (AL) on Wednesday passed the government’s third 2020 budget amendment bill, proposing to allocate MOP 8.15 billion from its extraordinary reserves to cover its expenditure for the remainder of this year.
It was the third time that the government has asked lawmakers to pass an amendment to its budget for this year so that it can adjust its expenditure in response to the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on residents and businesses.
As the government had requested an urgent procedure for the debate and vote of the bill, it was not, as is normal practice, arranged for review by any of the legislature’s standing committees before its final article-by-article debate and vote. Therefore, after the outline of the bill was passed during Wednesday’s plenary session, its final article-by-article debate and vote were immediately carried out. The lawmakers unanimously passed the bill article-by-article.
Secretary for Economy and Finance Lei Wai Nong introduced the outline of the amendment bill during Wednesday’s plenary session in the legislature’s hemicycle.
Lei noted that Macao’s economy this year has been hit hard by the “sudden onset” of COVID-19, affecting its gaming and tourism sectors in particular.
Lei pointed out that in the proposal for its first 2020 budget amendment bill, which was passed by the legislature in April, the government had already lowered its estimate of Macao’s gross gaming revenue for this year from the initial forecast of MOP 260 billion to MOP 130 billion.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has lasted longer than the government had initially expected, the policy secretary said, adding that therefore its adverse impact on the local economy has been larger than it had initially anticipated.
Lei pointed out that Macao had gross gaming revenue of only 45.875 billion in the first 10 months of this year, a year-on-year decline of 81.4 per cent, which he said was far lower than the government’s revised estimate of MOP 130 billion.
In the first 11 months of this year, Macao’s gross gaming revenue dropped by 80.5 per cent to MOP 52.623 billion, according to official data. The government submitted its third 2020 budget amendment bill to the legislature last month.
Lei said that therefore the revenue for the whole year the government now expects to receive from the gaming sector is less than its initially-budgeted 2020 revenue, and consequently the government’s revenue will be unable to cover its expected expenditure during the remainder of this year. After careful assessment and calculation, the government therefore proposed, in its third 2020 budget amendment bill, to allocate MOP 8.157 billion from its extraordinary reserves so as to keep a formally balanced budget intact, the policy secretary said.
Lei said that the proposed additional expenditure would be primarily spent on social welfare, education, public medical services and public security.
After including its latest proposed budget amendment, which was passed by the legislature on Wednesday, the government will allocate a total of MOP 50.75 billion from its extraordinary reserves this year.
Also addressing Wednesday’s plenary session, Financial Services Bureau (DSF) Deputy Director Daisy Ho In Mui noted that various public entities have been able to reduce their expenses as many of their originally-scheduled activities and events have been unable to get off the ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic.