MY TURN| Macao, China’s super tiger pet (Part 1)

THE Roman Empire broke up in 9th century. Its former, colonies became world powers like Gaul (France), Britannia (England), Alemania (Germany), Holland, Spain and Portugal. Something happened to some Italian cities along the sea which were backyard hick towns at the height of Roman power.

Venice, Genoa, Livorno, Bari, Naples became wealthy and powerful from 10th to 14th centuries because they were coastal cities and had access to the goods from the east and Africa.

There was no Italian republic so each region/city had to fend themselves. Thus the phrase city state was used to describe cities, small in size and in population but so rich they could buy mercenary armies and navies. Today only Macao, Singapore and Hongkong could be called city states

. The 1978 land area and population statics are 1. Macao 6.2 square miles with 292,000 people, 2. Hongkong 398 square miles and 4,089,000 inhabitants, 3. Singapore, 226 square miles with 2,034,000 residents, because of reclamation, the land area of the three increased.

Their populations also increased but it is in the wealth derived from the business/industry that made each one richer than nations big in land area and population like Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Percentage wise in relation to the population, the three are richer than the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

Singapore became a republic in 1966, the British left Hongkong in 1997 while the Portuguese returned Macao to China in 1999. China made Hongkong and Macao special administrative regions under the principle of one country two systems.

This means the two are parts of China, but the economic system of China and that of Portugal and England are both used in Macao and Hongkong, respectively. British departure was treated by doomsayers (westerners) as the death of Hongkong. As expected, theywere wrong.

Today, Hongkong is the world’s fourth biggest import and export container port and the biggest in China. Shanghai is trying to catch up but like what Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yu said, “Shanghai’s business must switch to English and bi-lingual like Singapore and Hongkong otherwise world trade to and from China will be through Hongkong.

In 1999, nobody knew if Macao would survive.” Macao was nothing compared to Hongkong when it comes to trade, business and industry. Very few spoke English and the infrastructure was rural (electricity, water, telephone, port). The humilities, patience, civility and industry of the Macanese paid off. Regional Governor Edmund Ho made a very smart decision.

He decided to end the gambling monopoly of Stanley Ho (Lisboa Casino) and invited Casino operators to bid for 6 licenses. The licenses went to 3 Americans, 1. Steve Wynn of Wynn Resorts, 2. Pansy Ho and Kirk Kerkorian of MGM Grand, 3. Sheldon Adelson of Sands Inc. Plus, 4. S.J.M. of Stanley Ho, the world’s living casino operator legend, 5. Galaxy of Hongkong’s Lui Che Woo and, 6. Lawrence Ho and James Packer of Melco Crown’s City of Dream.

MGM was originally out but it invited Pancy Ho, daughter of Stanley Ho to be a partner and got in. Melco Crown’s James Packer was out but bought later allegedly the other license of Steven Wynn for 900 million dollars.

Packer then asked Lawrence Ho, son of Stanley Ho to be his partner. The race was on to finish the first Las Vegas style Casino. Adelson won by the opening the Casino Hotel Sands in 2004.

It was a hit that it recovered its 265 million dollar building cost in 2005. Adelson also build a 2.4 billion dollar Casino Hotel in Cota. When it opened in 2007 Venetian became the world’s biggest Casino in the world, the worlds 6th biggest building and Asia’s biggest building.

The 3 Americans (Wynn, Kerkorian, Adelson) went to Macao, Australia, Packer and Lui of Hongkong survived because while the global economy collapsed in 2008 and only recovered, in 2012, from 2004 to 2013 the Macao casinos made billions of dollars. Macao’s number of tourists shot up from 12 million in 2004 to 29 million in 2013. Macau is near Chinas coastal, thickly populated industrial business regions of Fukien, KwangTung, Honan, Che Kiang, Kiangsu, ShangTung which produced and exported more than 70% of the 4 thrillion dollars worth of goods worldwide.

China’s network of efficient trains, 8 lane roads, big modern airports made Macao accessible. Since Deng opened China in 1980, millions of Chinese became moneyed enough to become tourists.

In 2004, Macao began attracting mainlanders because of the Casinos. The joke is that on weekends, Hongkongers go to Macao and mainlanders go to Hongkong on Mondays; Hongkongers and mainlanders return home. The manufacturing industrial regions have money to burn.

The millions of workers in the economic zones, factories support industries, trades and the professionals became the middle class in less than 20 years (1980-2000). 99% of the new moneyed workers spent their money in Hongkong, and Macao.

The tropical island of Hainan was too far from central China and roads, trains, ports, were less developed. It could not match Hongkong and Macao in attractions, incentives and nearness.

About 200 million of the 1 billion 400 million Chinese now belong to middle class. From 1980 up to the present, only a trickle went abroad. Thus, China’s hard earned dollars stayed inside mainly in Hongking and Macao.


Posted in Opinion