Economy of Macau

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The economy of Macau has remained one of the most open in the world since its reversion to China in 1999. Apparel exports and gambling-related tourism are mainstays of the economy. Since Macau has little arable land and few natural resources, it depends on mainland China for most of its food, fresh water, and energy imports. Japan and Hong Kong are the main suppliers of raw materials and capital goods. Although Macau was hit hard by the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis and the global downturn in 2001, its economy grew approximately 13.1% annually on average between 2001 and 2006.[4]

During the first three quarters of 2007, Macau registered year-on-year GDP increases of 31.4%.[4] A rapid rise in the number of mainland visitors due to China's easing of travel restrictions, increased public works expenditures, and significant investment inflows associated with the liberalization of Macau's gaming industry drove the five-year recovery. The budget also returned to surplus after 2002 because of the surge in visitors from China and a hike in taxes on gambling profits, which generated about 70% of government revenue.



Macau was a barren fishing village with a population of about 400 before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, during the Age of Discovery.[5] In 1535, the Portuguese traders obtained by bribing the right to anchor ships in Macau harbors and engage in trading activities. Portuguese and Chinese merchants flocked to Macau, and it quickly became an important regional trading center in Portugal's lucrative trade along three major routes: Macau-Malacca-Goa-Lisbon, Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki and Macau-Manila-Mexico.[6] However, with the decline of Portugal as a world power in the 17th and 18th centuries, the trading routes were challenged by other powers such as the Dutch and the British. After China ceded Hong Kong to the British in 1842, Macau's position as a major regional trading center declined further still because larger ships were drawn to the deep water port of Victoria Harbor. In an attempt to reverse the decline, from 1848 to the early 1870s Macau engaged in the infamous trade of coolies (slave laborers) as a transit port, shipping locals from southern China to Cuba, Peru, and other South American ports to work on plantations or in mines.[6]

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