Impressive achievements, but still room for improvement

At the time of its handover to China in 1999, Macau’s transition from a colonial outpost to a semi-autonomous global gaming powerhouse was far from assured. The Portuguese had left behind a substantial cultural legacy and several thousand expatriates, but the exchequer was bare, and 450 years of foreign control had left the territory without the empowerment and enablement for independence of thought of its leaders, and with limited institutional capacity and skills to assure its future. Macau’s human capital was restricted to a population of 420,000, occupying a land area of no more than 28 square kilometres. Per capita GDP then was US$15,500, about 60 percent of what it was in Hong Kong, which had become a Special Administrative Region some 2.5 years earlier than Macau. The newly operative Basic Law left Macau responsible for its own fiscal affairs, which it was required to conduct conservatively and with...

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