Why did Macau seem quiet this weekend? Apparently, the World Cup soccer tournament has resulted in “temporary softness in VIP gaming,” as the analysts put it. The place also seems hushed after Hong Kong because it lacks the Big Lychee’s constant background whining – distraught sport fans keening over the fact that the buyer of the expensive rights to broadcast the championship in the city is not giving this valuable commercial property away to others. Over in Sleaze Enclave, residents can choose between the local free channel TDM, which seems to carry it all live – some demented followers are even getting up at 2.30am to watch games – and the Mainland’s CCTV5, for those who want it in glorious, throaty Putonghua.
Maybe the government is trying to divert citizens’ attention from its latest outrage. It is hard to say which outrage: the latest rumours concern massive favours (property-related, of course) being bestowed on former Chief Executive Edmund Ho. This actually seems a bit hard to believe given that, following the extensive corruption that took pace under Ho, this place is more than ever under the thumb of Mainland cadres – to an unthinkable extent by Hong Kong standards.
If Macau were the Big Lychee, officials would be trying desperately to hide details of a new reclamation plan, which will transform the landscape of the coastline along the southern and eastern part of Macau peninsula and the north of Taipa. Instead, they are mounting a Hong Kong-style public engagement programme, compete with the sort of gushing glossy brochure so beloved by the psycho-planners on our side of the Pearl River estuary.
To give an idea of the scale, the yellow circle is the ferry terminal, the square the Lisboa hotel.
The idea goes back several years and was approved last year. The government is promising the people that there will be no casinos or luxury property developments – but plenty of pubic housing and green space. It increases the whole territory’s land area by nearly a seventh (from 25.8 sq km to 29.3), and is expected to house 120,000 people over 20 years or so. The monster orange reclamation to the east will apparently connect to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai bridge.
Anyone who is shocked at the extent to which Hong Kong’s government favours the commercial interests of a small group of tycoons and their families over the rest of the population has never been to Macau. So by local standards both the plan (which will arguably not be too damaging from aesthetic point of view) and the way it is being promoted are quite enlightened. It’s those cadres behind the scenes, probably. Plus, most Macau people couldn’t care less about landscape.
So the free soccer must be to take the city’s mind off something else.