Sat, December 19, 2009
10th anniversary of Macao's return

Backgrounder: Macao Special Administrative Region

2009-12-19 01:42:00 GMT2009-12-19 09:42:00 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

MACAO, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao is to arrive in Macao on Saturday to attend the celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland and the inauguration of the third-term government of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR).

The following are some basic facts about Macao:

Macao officially returned to China on Dec. 20, 1999, when the Macao SAR was established and the SAR's constitutional document, the Basic Law, came into force on the same day.

The Basic Law lays down a political and administrative framework of the Macao SAR. Under the principles of "one country, two systems," "Macao people governing Macao" with a high degree of autonomy, the SAR exercises a high degree of autonomy in line with the Basic Law.

Due to land reclamation along its coastline, Macao has grown in land area from 23.8 square km in 1999 to 29.2 square km nowadays. Macao has a population of over 540,000, with a population density of 18,535 per square km, and the northern part of the SAR is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

Though a small economy, Macao pursues an open economic policy. It has one of the lowest tax regimes in the Asia Pacific region. In addition, as a free port and a separate tariff zone, which has no foreign exchange controls, Macao is also an active player in the regional economy.

Firstly legalized in the mid-19th century, Macao's gaming industry has developed a very close relation with the tourism industry and become a pillar of local economy.

In 2002, the government of the Macao SAR liberalized the gaming industry, bringing new momentum to Macao's gaming sector and the entire economy. With the influx of foreign direct investment in the sector, the gross revenues of Macao's gaming industry increased to 109.83 billion patacas (13.73 billion U.S. dollars) in 2008, surpassing Las Vegas and ranking No. 1 in the world. The sector contributed 41.9 billion patacas (5.24 billion dollars) in direct tax, representing 73 percent of Macao's total public finances that year.

The latest official figures showed that the gaming industry's gross revenue totaled 96.62 billion patacas (12.08 billion dollars)from January to October 2009.

Boosted by strong gaming growth, Macao's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 141.17 billion patacas in 2008 at constant prices of 2002, which is 3.1 times the 1999 figure. This translates into 39,000 U.S. dollars of GDP per capita in 2008, which was one of the highest in Asia.

Aside from casinos, the SAR is also a popular travel destination. The SAR logged over 17.8 million visitor arrivals during the first 10 months of 2009.

Macao boasts the unique assimilation and co-existence of Chinese and Western cultures. The Historic Center of Macao, a collection of over 20 locations, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005, making it the 31st designated World Heritage site in China.

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