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CE proud Macao relying less on gaming

By WANG XU and FLORENCE LI in Macao | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-18 09:56
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Ho Iat-seng, chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region, hailed the city's reduced reliance on the gaming sector on Monday as he expressed optimism about Macao's economic prospects, expecting double-digit growth and a return to pre-pandemic levels in the second half of the year.

"The gambling industry accounted for less than 40 percent of Macao's GDP last year, with other non-gambling elements making up the rest," Ho said as he noted that despite anticipating an increase in the gambling industry's proportion this year, the government's goal is to keep its share at 40 percent or below.

Diversifying the economy and maintaining a balanced approach to the gambling industry has been a goal long pursued by Macao, as it is essential to build a sustainable and resilient economy that can withstand external shocks, create more employment opportunities, reduce socioeconomic disparities and adapt to changing global trends.

In 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Macao government's total revenue reached 133.5 billion Macao patacas ($16.61 billion), with gambling taxes accounting for nearly 80 percent.

However, the pandemic had a significant impact on Macao's gambling industry, as related revenue decreased to 42.84 billion patacas in 2022, marking the lowest annual revenue achieved by the industry since 2004.

To wean Macao of its gaming dependency, Ho outlined strategic measures for economic diversification known as the "1+4" strategy and highlighted the promising strides the city made in the traditional Chinese medicine industry as a result of its ties with Lusophone, or Portuguese-speaking, countries.

As the cornerstone of the diversification effort, the "1+4" strategy refers to the "1" goal of building a world-class tourism and leisure center, while the"4" focuses on four key industries: health, finance, high-technology, and conventions and exhibitions.

A significant part of the diversification revolves around the TCM industry. Macao is home to two national key laboratories focusing on pharmacology and drug development. To support the TCM industry's growth, the city has set up a Drug Regulatory Bureau to oversee the approval and quality control of TCM products. This regulatory framework is crucial for ensuring that Macao's TCM products meet high standards, facilitating their acceptance in international markets.

One notable success of this effort has been the growing market for Macao's Chinese patent medicines in Portuguese-speaking countries, especially in Africa.

"These countries have a preference for herbal medicine, which aligns with their medical culture and legal framework," Ho said, adding that this alignment has enabled Macao to establish a foothold in these markets.

Chen Xin, director of the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine at the University of Macao, emphasized the importance of internationalizing TCM, saying that while acupuncture has achieved success globally, the acceptance of TCM as a medicinal practice faces challenges.

"What is lacking is scientific evidence obtained through rigorous scientific methods to demonstrate its efficacy and safety," Chen said.

"I believe our team has made significant contributions in this regard, and will undoubtedly contribute to the modernization and internationalization of TCM."

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