PROFILE: Macao SAR's outgoing chief executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah

09:40, December 15, 2009      

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Ten years ago, Edmund Ho Hau Wah, became chief executive of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR).

With gradually-embeded hoary hairs during his two terms as chief executive, Ho said "The biggest sacrifice for doing so many things for Macao and the motherland is these hoary hairs. It really doesn't matter."

The government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Macao on Dec. 20, 1999. After he took office, Ho faced many difficulties: the region suffered from negative economic growth, high unemployment rate, deteriorating social order, and a lack of local civil servants.

Ten years onwards, Macao has become one of the world's fastest growing economies, with per capita GDP ranking among the top in Asia.

"It wouldn't have been possible without support from the central government, my administration and the Macao people," he said.

Ho attributed the tremendous achievements of Macao over the past decade to the implementation of the policy of "one country, two systems."

Ho said the central government stands firmly behind Macao SAR, especially at times of difficulty.

The central government's moves, including promoting mainland individual's trip to Macao, signing closer economic partnership arrangement (CEPA), and measures helping Macao out of global financial tsunami, have all contributed to the region's economic growth and social stability, Ho said.

"The principle of 'one country, two systems' not only brought one or two patacas (more money) into every person's pocket in Macao, but, more importantly, let Macao people feel the advantages of the policy and deeper love to Macao and China because they've seen the progress," he said.

"It makes Macao people have trust in the principle of 'one country, two systems' and have enthusiasm in pushing forward the cause."

He said the central government, strictly upholding the spirit of "one country, two systems" and the basic law, has never intervened into Macao SAR's internal affairs. "This is great trust and support to us."

Apart from excitement and pride felt at the Macao's handover ceremony in 1999, Ho said he also felt like "treading on thin ice" at that time.

"I'm thinking of how to lead the SAR's civil servants to better govern and build the region with the support of the residents," he said.

"It worried me that the localization of civil servants had not started yet during interim period," he said.

As a result, when his administration started afresh, a large number of civil servants either had no experience in what they are doing or had no time to learn step by step.

Over the years, Macao SAR had trained local civil servants in higher-learning institutes on the Chinese mainland, such as the prestigious Tsinghua University, as well as in other countries such as Singapore.

"It's my honor to work with a young team in serving Macao people and the principle of 'one country, two systems'," Ho said.

What made him even happier was that majority of important officials in his administration were reappointed by the incoming SAR chief executive Chui Sai On.

"This is a recognition of their performance, and their experience will be of great use to the next administration," Ho said.

Over the past decade, Ho's administration improved the public service by offering "one-stop" service and carrying out "service commitment" plan.

In June 2007, the SAR government has initiated the largest reform of public administration ever since Macao's return to China, including government restructuring, service network construction, reform of civil servant system and clean government building.

Ho cherished citizens' oversight to the government in the process of "Macao people governing Macao," saying "citizens' participation is essential to Macao's democracy and progress."

In the past decade, Macao has seen spiralling economic development.

Macao's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 was 2.6 times of that in 1999, an annual growth rate of 13.3 percent. The per capita GDP of Macao residents in 2008 reached 39,000 U.S. dollars, almost three times the average before its return.

The SAR's fiscal revenue surged by more than 40 times in a decade to about 100 billion patacas this year.

While Macao's economy is taking off, it's also haunted by excessive reliance on the gambling business.

To diversify the economic structure, Macao is striving to gradually develop a full-fledged travel industry on the basis of gambling business, and then further develop the economy to cover a wider spectrum, including conference, exhibition, and retails, according to Ho.

Cultural industry is an uncharted water to be navigated by the next administration, Ho said.

Ho said, China's central government has offered tremendous support during this process, the recent approval of Macao's sea reclamation plan by the State Council being a case in the point.

"With additional land resources, Macao could improve its residents' housing conditions, and build more education and health-care infrastructures," he said.

The central government has imbedded the goal of diversifying Macao's economy in a series of moves, such as building the bridge crossing over the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, mapping out the development plan for neighboring Hengqin district, and the overall reform plan for the Pearl River Delta, according to Ho.

Talking about his retirement in the near future, Ho said he would have a good rest and keep on living in the island city, adding he would not do anything detrimental to the SAR.

"I have every faith in the 'one country, two systems' principle as well as the SAR's brighter future."

Source: Xinhua
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