Forum Macao’s top representatives announced that new measures need to be taken in order to revitalise a 15-year-old organisation initiated by China with the full support of the Portuguese-speaking countries.
Secretary General Xu Yingzhen guaranteed that the Forum has listened to feedback from the Portuguese-speaking countries and will do its utmost to give replies to their needs and proposals.
Even before the report that is currently being prepared by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’s results are shared, the Forum has decided that it is imperative to visit all the Portuguese-speaking countries in 2018 in order to increase the respective countries’s participation and understanding of the organisation. It also wants small and medium enterprises to better comprehend how the Forum Macao can help their businesses grow in China.
When entrepreneurs from Mozambique and Angola were asked how well they understood the Forum Macao’s initiatives, they were not able to provide much information on the organisation and how it can help them further their businesses. They say the Forum Macao’s visits to their home countries are too short, too official and above all, there have been no follow-ups after the visits.
They also get confused because both the Forum Macao and the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute have the same objective: to promote Macao as a platform for business between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries but sometimes their activities, actions and messages are not coordinated – there is a lack of communication and clarity between the two organisations.
“We, businessmen, need a representation of the Forum in our countries that can deal with us on a daily basis. Macao is geographically too far away to play that role,” the sources said. Each country has an official at a ministerial level that deals with the Forum Macao, but this happens at a government level and it is all very bureaucratic. During the seminar that took place in Macao in March, many asked for new types of support for businesses considering the present Development Cooperation Fund between China and the Portuguese- Speaking Countries too difficult to access.
A new Fund for development is needed
Top officials from the Forum understand the countries’ frustrations but also clarify that the Fund is probably not what small and medium enterprises think it is and need. Contrary to what many countries want, the fund only finances projects that can have quick returns and the steps to apply for the loans are very difficult.
Surprisingly, the Deputy Secretary-General of Forum Macao, Rodrigo Brum publicly said that the Portuguese-speaking countries are very interested in infrastructure and development financing, so it is therefore necessary to think of an alternative instrument to the current China-Portuguese-speaking Countries Cooperation and Development Fund, which has other characteristics, such as longer maturities.
Brum, who represents the eight Portuguese-speaking countries in the Forum Macao, said in an interview published days before the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Forum Macao, that there is a lack of knowledge of the characteristics of the Development Cooperation Fund between China and the Portuguese- speaking countries and of its operating mechanisms.
“The Cooperation and Development Fund is a venture capital instrument – pure and simple venture capital – with internationally recognised characteristics: capital inflow, with a minority stake, with a five, six or seven-year exit plan, with return on invested capital and a pre-established rate of return,” he said.
CLBrief knows that both Macao and Portugal are ready to finance a different fund to support small and medium businesses and discussions have been already taken place. Brazilian ambassador in China Marcos Caramuru de Paiva endorses the idea that the Fund should remain a business intended mechanism and not merely a platform for official development assistance.
“I don’t think that it is fair to claim that the challenges and the problems start with the attribution of resources. It’s a two-way road. We need financial resources, it’s true, but the projects submitted also need to be of quality. We are not talking about development aid. We are talking about investment and when we are talking about investment we have to be ready for some challenges,” he said.
Brazil to play a bigger role in the Forum Macao
One of the surprises of the meeting in Macao was that Brazil guaranteed that the country will, from now on, play a bigger role in the Forum’s activities, though not with a resident representative but one from the General Consulate in Hong Kong.
This was also a request that Forum Macao had been making to Brazil. Brazil is the biggest trade partner of China from all the eight Portuguese-speaking countries with China being the main importer of Brazilian products.
The apparent success of the Brazilian business approach within the Cooperation and Development Fund may be possibly one of the reasons why Brasília decided to step up its involvement in the works of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries.
By the third quarter of 2018, the Chinese Academy for Social Sciences will announce its conclusion of what has been done by the Forum Macao and what should be done in the future and this will certainly will open new strategies and avenues of cooperation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries.
With the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Special Administrative Region of Macao to be held next year and the appointment of a new Chief Executive by December of the same year, Chinese authorities are discussing if the Forum ministerial meeting that is due to take place in 2019 should not be transferred to 2020 when a new Macao government is in place. Macao government officials recently announced this as a possibility at a public event.