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Gaming, exports drive up Macao economy
( 2002-08-13 09:40 ) (1 )

Macao's economy will hopefully be on a fast track this year due to a robust tourism business, increasing tax revenues from casinos and more exports, economists and government authorities said.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of Macao is expected to grow 5 per cent or more in 2002 in an optimistic estimate from Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah. Ho noted that "Macao's economy has entered a period of embryonic recovery, compared with a negative and zero increase before it returned to the motherland, thanks to strong support from the central government and social stability."

Lao Pun Lap, president of the Macao Society of Economics Study, is also upbeat. "The economy could increase by nearly 6 per cent in the whole year unless there were sudden changes in the outside world in the second half," he said.

Tourist arrivals in the special administrative region (SAR) went up a year-on-year 9.3 per cent to 5.48 million in the first half of this year, helped by more streamlined procedures for mainlanders to visit Macao and Hong Kong and an increase in travel agencies entrusted to manage SAR-bound tours.

The increase of mainland tourists drew much attention, soaring 37.5 per cent to 1.87 million. They were also the most generous group, spending money that nearly doubled that of tourists from other locations.

The Macao Government Tourist Office is hoping to make tourists stay longer and spend more as the number of same-day visitors reached more than 2.3 million or 42 per cent of the total in the first six months of the year.

As a result of encouraging casino performance, the SAR government raked in 3.45 billion patacas (US$431.25 million) in tax revenues from gambling sites from January to June, up 19.1 per cent.

The boom was due to more casino visitors and tax increases demanded by the government after it announced the liberalization of the gaming industry.

Economist Lao foresaw the gambling tax income would reach as much as 7 billion patacas (US$875 million ) this year.

Fifty-five per cent of Macao's GDP came from the gaming industry, while the ratio will probably rise to 60 per cent this year, the economist said.

The SAR's exports, another engine for economic growth, have started to pick up amid moderate worldwide economic recovery. Export goods climbed slightly to 6.68 billion patacas (US$835 million) in the first five months. This reflected a 21.2 per cent leap in re-exports against a 4.9 per cent drop in local-product exports.

Exports of textile products and clothing for adults rose 3.1 per cent to account for 81.5 per cent of the total, compared with a 10 per cent drop in non-textile products including machinery and spare parts and footwear, according to the Statistics and Census Services.

The United States and European Union remained the city's major export markets by absorbing 69.3 and 23.1 per cent respectively of Macao's exports, but the value of goods sold to the EU fell 12.7 per cent, the sources said.

Economist Lao warned that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. He urged the government to allot resources more evenly, diversify industries and sharpen the competitive edge of the entire region and economy.



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