Macau has transformed from being a sleepy backwater to the world’s foremost gaming centre in the space of a few years since it opted to open its casino business to more operators.
Billions of dollars in investment from foreign casino magnates have poured in, giving it an international reputation as offering money-making opportunities in a host of economic sectors. These foreign-invested projects are changing the face of the city, which was once dominated by a few local tycoons with intricate business and social ties.
Our revelation today that Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah has a financial stake in the gaming industry – which generates 70 per cent of Macau’s revenue – must therefore be a matter of concern. This fact was not previously on the public record.
Openness and transparency have to be the guiding principles of any government that strives for good governance. For a city such as Macau, which tries to attract foreign investment, that is especially important. Any sense that the level business playing field its legal system provides might have been compromised will raise doubts in the minds of investors. With half a million people, Macau is also a tight-knit community. Local investors also need assurances that no favouritism is at play.
Although the law provides that government officials have to disclose their assets, unlike in Hong Kong, the details are not revealed to citizens. Under the Basic Law of Macau, Mr Ho declares his financial interests to the president of the Court of Final Appeal, where the documents remain sealed.