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International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept
This 2019 Article IV Consultation highlights that while more moderate than in the past, gaming and tourism revenue in Macao Special Administrative Region picked up as the economy returned to expansion since mid-2016. Progress with diversification towards mass-gaming and nongaming tourism, together with the continued China gaming monopoly, are expected to deliver growth of around 4 percent in the medium term. Risks are tilted to the downside, mainly emanating from Mainland China. Prudent macroeconomic policies and high reserves provide strong buffers against shocks. In addition to supporting diversification, fulfilling social needs, and maintaining macroeconomic stability, the policies priorities explained in the report will reduce external imbalances. The report also discusses that the current housing macroprudential stance and related fiscal measures appear broadly appropriate. A broader set of policies are advised to support housing affordability, where continued efforts to boost housing supply will be key.
International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

KEY MESSAGESSetting. Discussions took place for the first time since the handover of Macao SAR from Portugal to China in 1999. Prudent macroeconomic management has underpinned rapid development in the territory, which is now the world’s largest gaming center. As a small, open and tourism-dependent economy, Macao SAR is currently also benefiting from loose global monetary conditions and a Mainland-related boom.Outlook and risks. Growth should stay strong over the next few years at 8–10 percent buoyed by gaming exports and investment, with inflation remaining around 5–5½ percent. However, the economy is vulnerable to external shocks, in particular a slowdown in tourism, due to shocks in the Mainland or Hong Kong SAR or other setbacks to the global recovery. The buoyant property market could also correct if demand fundamentals shift or interest rates rise abruptly with the withdrawal of unconventional monetary policy abroad.Macroeconomic policies. The policy stance is appropriate, with scope for further tightening of macroprudential policies should property prices continue to rise sharply. If downside risks materialize, targeted fiscal stimulus should be used to buttress growth. In the event of a severe property downturn, some countervailing measures could be cautiously unwound. The currency board is the best arrangement for Macao SAR.Financial stability. Important progress has been made in strengthening financial stability in line with the 2011 FSAP recommendations. Prudential measures should focus on managing potential credit and liquidity risks from a gaming slowdown and the property sector, as well as spillovers from shocks in the Mainland and Hong Kong SAR.Longer term challenges. Looking further ahead, Macao SAR’s public finances face a moderation in gaming revenues juxtaposed against spending needs from population aging. A sovereign wealth fund to manage part of the territory’s fiscal reserves and medium-term budgeting could therefore be useful. As the gaming sector matures, economic diversification toward other services will be key for stable growth.

International Monetary Fund. Asia and Pacific Dept

In recent years, the Macao SAR economy contracted by a cumulative 30 percent due to a sharp fall in spending by gaming tourists from Mainland China. Spillovers to the rest of the economy were relatively contained with unemployment staying under 2 percent and asset quality in the financial sector unaffected. Nonetheless, the size and speed of the shock underscored the need to transition to a more diversified economic model going forward. Fortunately, Macao SAR is entering this transition from a position of strength with large fiscal and external buffers.