The Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo do Rosário, apologized at the Legislative Assembly yesterday, stating that the government is still unable to announce a timetable for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) operation date, nor to foresee the total cost of its its construction.
Serious overruns of time and cost have also occurred in other public works, including the stalled constructions of the Pac On Ferry Terminal and of two public housing projects. Regarding the LRT project, he said that “being unable to justify the unjustifiable, the only option I have is to apologize.”
The new secretary, who has been in charge of the problematic area for four months now, received the encouragement of lawmakers as well as their criticism at the AL’s plenary meeting yesterday, debating the government’s 2015 policy objectives regarding transport and public works.
Rosário stated that the Secretariat must enhance its capacity to respond to citizens’ demands about being able to reside in a livable city with a high quality of life, whilst meeting the need for sustainable development. Accordingly, their “first important goal is to formulate overall city planning,” which will be based on the principles of Macau’s economic diversification, regional cooperation and sustainable development, as well as its positioning as a world tourism and leisure hub and service platform for China and Lusophone countries’ trade and economic cooperation.
The secretary pledged that another important goal is to “take measures within this year to solve those problems awaiting to be addressed.” These include filling leading roles, planning for more environmental facilities, as well as tacking the delays and stagnation in current public work constructions.
“There are now four constructions which are at a standstill, namely the LRT’s Superstructure in the Taipa section, the Pac On Ferry Terminal, the Mong Ha and Toi San public housing projects. We have reached an agreement to terminate the contract of the Toi San project, and are still in negotiation with the Mong Ha project’s contractor. As of the Pac On Ferry Terminal, the problem can also be solved, but we need to allow it more money and time,” he told the AL.
The secretary said that the construction of the new ferry terminal will be completed by the end of this year, and will be put into operation mid-2016. However, facing the lawmaker’s urgency for a timetable of the LRT first phase’s operation, he said no answer could be given.
“The construction progress and budget have both exceeded our expectations, and we currently still have no condition to announce the operation schedule of the LRT system’s first phase, nor to foresee its cost. For which, I apologize to the citizens,” he said, adding that the government might need to go to court to solve the stalled construction of LRT’s Superstructure project.
Several lawmakers also urged the secretary to explain the key reasons that caused the public works’ constant overrunning of cost and time, and further demanded a plan to curb these
occurrences. In response, Rosário recognized the overruns as the biggest problem for his Secretariat, but stressed that, “it is clearly impossible to guarantee” the cross-year large-scale projects to meet the contractual time and budget. “This is not simply about execution,” he said.
The secretary refused to look back at the past in order to assess current problems, instead stressing “I just want to solve the problems.” However, some problems seem unable to be tackled, such as the city’s seemingly endless traffic. “Every month there are 900 new motorcycles and cars landing on the roads, but the road network hasn’t added new roads. I think I have no solutions, no ability to solve this problem,” he told the lawmakers.
Several legislators also slammed the Secretariat for its alleged low working efficiency, whether it’s in the public constructions or in the Housing Bureau’s work process. In response, the Secretary admitted that “it is very likely that the tasks to which his Secretariat of 3,200 people have committed are unable to be delivered.” “Because our current workload is really too much. I myself go to work from Monday to Sunday, and I cannot finish my work. (…) Besides, we are not a private company, so we must follow the procedures. Even sometimes when we want to speed up, those procedures won’t allow it,” he explained.