sexta-feira, 31 de julho de 2009

O terreno atribuído ao Ou Mun

Critics query low price news group paid for office
Concerns over government sale

Fox Yi Hu
South China Morning Post
July 31, 2009

Macau's biggest newspaper group has acquired a site from the government for a low price in a land deal formally approved last week - long after construction began on the site.

Critics say the deal highlights the secrecy surrounding Macau's land sales and casts doubts on the independence of the city's mainstream media.

The 2,017-square-metre Macau Daily site in the northeast of the Macau Peninsula was acquired for HK$13,718 a square metre.

In comparison, in a rare open land auction in January last year, two plots in the Macau Peninsula's northern Fai Chi Kei area totalling 4,700 square metres fetched HK$1.4 billion, or HK$297,872 a square metre.

"Land sales lacking fairness and openness have fuelled speculation among the public that pro-government groups are getting favours at the cost of public resources," political commentator Larry So Man-yum said.

The Macau Daily group was granted the site for a land premium of 28.5 million patacas, according to the latest issue of the Government Gazette, published on Wednesday.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si-io approved the deal on July 20, and the land premium was paid on June 29, according to the gazette.

The group publishes the Macau Daily News, which has a circulation of 100,000, or about 70 per cent of the city's total newspaper circulation.

A 26-floor office building stands nearly completed on the Venceslau de Morais Avenue site. Construction began as early as 2007.

The site was granted to the group without public bidding.

Macau's Land Law requires government land sales to be carried out through public bidding, with exceptions allowed only with the chief executive's permission. Yet since the 1999 handover, only a handful out of more than 400 sites sold by the government have gone through the public bidding process.

Professor So, who teaches public administration at Macau Polytechnic Institute, said the land deal may hurt the credibility of not only the Macau Daily News, but other mainstream media in the city. "Members of the public will begin to question the city's media, asking whether they are leveraging their influence to gain favours from the government," he said.

In August 2007, the Macau Daily group explained to the government that it needed the site to provide quality service to its readers and boost the competitiveness of Macau's press, according to the Government Gazette.

The group first applied for the site in 2005 and former public works minister Ao Man-long, now in jail, approved it in February 2006. But Ao's approval was voided after he was arrested for corruption in December 2006.

Legislator Au Kam-san said the government had been using outdated methods for calculating land values in secret land sales, resulting in ridiculously low prices.

He said the government needed to revise its calculation of land values, using open auctions for reference, and to make open bidding the norm for land sales.

The Macau government and the Macau Daily group did not respond to inquiries.

Nota: logo na minha segunda crónica d'O Protesto, publicada no Jornal Tribuna de Macau de 28 de Fevereiro de 2008 (há já ano e meio, portanto), escrevi o seguinte comentário sobre este assunto: «no entretanto, vão surgindo mais uns pequenos escândalos com terrenos, como o da antiga central térmica da CEM na Avenida Venceslau de Morais, que só reverteu formalmente para a região na semana passada (basta consultar o Boletim Oficial de 21 de Fevereiro), mas – acusa o deputado Au Kam San – já foi “informalmente” atribuído ao jornal Ou Mun no ano passado, para ali construir a sua nova sede (que, pelos vistos, já começou mesmo a ser construída há algum tempo)».

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