Less than two months before Ho Iat Seng is sworn in as Macao’s Chief Executive, speculation has risen about who will be the next secretaries and senior officials in his government.
Sources have told CLBrief that the announcement of the new government will take place in the first weeks of November.
The general opinion holds that Ho needs a new and different government from his predecessor, Fernando Chui Sai On, but not all advocate the full replacement of the top ten government officials, among them the five secretaries.
While the new president of the Macau European Chamber of Commerce, Carlos Simões, said in an interview with Macao public television (TDM) that the new government should keep the Secretaries for Economy and Finance, Leong Vai Tac, and Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosário, as they have important gaming and infrastructure issues in their hands, other more radical voices call for their replacement.
“The government of [Fernando] Chui Sai On was weak and will not be missed. You can’t replace just a few secretaries. All must be replaced,” said a senior manager of a Macao company who requested anonymity. “The last 10 years of Macao are to be forgotten and this is not only due to one or another secretary or even the Chief Executive. We must make up for lost time with a new team.”
The newspaper Ponto Final offered a somewhat less damning critique, writing in a recent article that Chief Executive Chui was the “stabiliser” to whom “history will not have much to say,” considering he was a “leader that didn’t exist during his ten years in office.”
Experts interviewed by the publication described Chui’s decade in office as largely a continuation of the previous administration, with one characterising him as neither a “strong personality” nor “mediocre” in his tenure. Both agreed that, in the long term, Chui’s 10 years as Chief Executive will be remembered as a footnote in the history of Macao.
The Macao press has been unwilling to make many predictions about who leaves and who stays but by Ho Iat Seng’s public statements during the election campaign and after being nominated in Beijing, it is clear that there will be profound changes.
Ho wants to prioritise public housing construction, public administration reform, health, transport, education and innovation by looking at the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as great opportunity for the future of Macao.
Ho, a businessman, former chairman of the Macao Legislative Assembly and a member of the National People’s Congress in Beijing, is also a staunch supporter of the “one country, two systems” principle, the Belt and Road Initiative and “patriotic education.”
It is in the context of eventual and profound changes that names such as Wallis O Lam have surfaced. She is the current Chief of Staff of the Chief Executive and granddaughter of O Cheng Peng (Ke Zhengping), who founded Nam Kwong Trading Company in 1949 and led the pro-Chinese community in Macao between 1980 and 1999.
Lam could be appointed to Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, replacing Alexis Tam Chon Weng, who the vast majority of residents contacted by CLBrief believe will not continue in office but may be “awarded” a high position at a local institute or foundation, such as the Macao Foundation.
Tam’s possible appointment to the Macao Foundation would open up current foundation president, Wu Zhiliang, as another potential candidate for the Social Affairs and Culture position.
Then came names for the Secretary for Economy and Finance such as Lee Peng Hong, who was chairman of the Macao Institute for Trade and Investment Promotion (IPIM) and left office in 2010 after just over a decade in that position due to conflicts with the then-Secretary for Economy and Finance, Francis Tam Pak Yuen.
Other potential candidates for the post include the current director of Economic Services, Anton Tai Kin Ip, considered a young, dynamic and competent staff of public administration, and Paulo Martins Chan, head of the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau.
Ho Veng On, Chief of Staff of Macao’s first Chief Executive, Edmund Ho Hau Wah, and current Commissioner of Audit, has been named as a possible replacement for the current Secretary for Administration and Justice, Sónia Chan Hoi Fan. Other possible names discussed for the post include Cheong Weng Chon, current Commissioner Against Corruption; Paula Ling, lawyer and senior partner of the law firm Rato, Ling, Lei and Cortés; and Vasco Fong Man Chong, who served as coordinator of the Office for Personal Data Protection.
Although there is a strong consensus among Macao residents on Raimundo do Rosário to continue as Secretary of Transport and Public Works, he has previously stated that he would take office for one term only. Engineer José Chui Sai Peng, lawmaker of the Macao Legislative Assembly, Member of Macao to the National People’s Congress of China and cousin of the current Chief Executive, is a potential candidate to his position.
Looking at the presence in the future government of young local professionals the name of Susana Wong Soi Man, director of the Marine and Water Bureau, is also being discussed as a replacement for Rosário, placing her among the list of the potential top officials to fill the five positions of policy secretaries.
Another consensus figure is Security Secretary Wong Sio Chak, who, despite implementing measures some view as too restrictive for a city like Macao, as well as political and legislative slippages, seems to have no competitors for the job.
Those currently in charge of the Commissions Against Corruption and Audit may be called upon to hold other positions while those currently in charge of the Public Prosecution Service, Unitary Police and Customs do not seem to be changing their role in the political structure of Macao.
A veteran journalist in Macao, however, confides that there is a new trend advocating administrative continuity which argues that only Secretary for Economy and Finance Leong Vai Tac would be replaced.
The Chief Executive-designate and his government will take office at a ceremony to be held on 20 December this year, which may be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
It’s not official that President Xi will visit Macao for the ceremony of the swearing in of the new government, but government departments are preparing events to commemorate the visit to the MSAR.
Xi’s visit could also be seen as a boost to Macao at a time when the Hong Kong situation is getting worse by the day with protesters questioning the “one country, two systems” principle that was implemented in their territory in 1997.