Gaming and tourism lead gross domestic product in Macau

Gaming tourism continues to power Macau’s buoyant economy, as its gross domestic product (GDP) for 2007 grew 27.3 % over the previous year, according to Macau’s Statistics and Census Service.

Latest figures showed that the region’s GDP for 2007 was estimated at 153.61 billion patacas (USD 19.2 billion) in real terms and per-capita GDP amounted to 292,165 patacas (USD 36,357) – outstripping the USD 29,847 in neighboring Hong Kong.

The report, released on Friday, said that for 2007, visitors to Macau grew by 22.7 percent to 26,992,995, with the majority coming from the Chinese mainland. Total visitor spending (excluding gaming expenses) saw a 13.9-percent growth in real terms.

Meanwhile, the continuous increase and improvement in gaming and tourism facilities, as well as rising number of visitors, led annual gross gaming revenue for last year (excluding tips) to soar by 45.8 percent compared with 2006.

Macau has 29 casinos in a city of 538,000 residents.

As a result of the boom in tourism and gaming, the island city’s investment in 2007 was boosted 23 percent in real terms over the previous year, according to the report.

The world economy remained strong in the first three quarters of 2007, but the momentum tended to slow down in the fourth quarter. However, Macau’s economy was „not much affected due to the support from the Chinese mainland,“ said the statistics burea.

Since Macau’s economy was centered on its gaming and tourism sectors, the fluctuations of the global economy will have a smaller impact than changes in government policies, such as legalization of gambling in neighboring nations and regions, said Bank of China’s Macau branch in a previous economic review.

Public projects

The BOC predicted that many of the city’s casino hotel projects will be completed in 2008 and some public projects, such as the construction of a light railway, will be launched this year.

As a result, gaming and fixed-asset investment will continue to lead GDP growth this year, despite a possible slowdown in the local economy.

Due to its fast growth rate, Macau’s leading industries have created job opportunities. As a result, the city’s unemployment rate from December 2007 to February 2008 was kept below three percent, standing at 2.9 percent, according to the latest statistics.

However, experts also pointed out that many local industries did not share the benefits of Macau’s economic boom since the opening of its gaming industry in 2002.

More than half of the employed population in Macau earns just 5,000 patacas (USD 625) per month or even less, while those with monthly pay of 10,000 patacas (USD 1,250) or more account for 20 percent of the total, according to Chan Cheuk Wah, program coordinator of Macau Polytechnic Institute’s School of Public Administration.

He said that income disparities among local industries were growing, which indicated „the gap between the rich and the poor is widening.“

The statistics office estimated that Macau’s total labor force from December 2007 to February 2008 stood at 322,800, and the labor force participation rate was 70.1 percent, down by 0.2 percentage points from the preceding period.

Chan explained the growing income disparities mainly resulted from the low educational level of workers. Ten percent of local employees received only elementary education, while most were high school graduates, he said.

Therefore, Chan proposed that the government of the Macau Special Administrative Region should invest more in education in the near future and directly or indirectly offer educational funds and opportunities to local employees and students, in a bid to help them further their education.