Is Forum Macau still alive?

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The creation of Forum Macau was an important political initiative, which has provided Macau with a political role, at least on paper. The project, a long time promise of the Portuguese government and constantly delayed, was taken up and effortlessly materialized by Beijing.
Macau has all it needs to serve as a bridge, to attract multilateral businesses, train translators, host conferences and be a base for services that help achieve common goals for Portuguese speaking countries.
Forum Macau will never replace bilateral ties, and member countries don’t need the Forum to improve those ties, although it may have played a part in the recent decision from São Tomé and Príncipe to cut ties with Taiwan and recognize Beijing instead of Taipei.
The critical declarations from the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Brazil-China of Macau, which we published yesterday, have been known for a long time.
Porfírio Gomes says that Forum Macau needs to be more active. Other sorts of things are being said about the Forum. Things like several African nations’ representatives taking advantage of the Forum to establish their private businesses in the territory, asking for direct support from the Forum Macau and behaving in a fashion that does not dignify their diplomatic posts or the countries they represent.
As time passed – and all the inherent difficulties that a project with all the political support it needs, but little initiative and some inertia – the Forum Macau gained a certain reputation: that of an institution that exists, organizes a few events with some participation, but you don’t really expect it to do something notorious.
Some officials from Forum Macau have also contributed to this state of affairs. A few months ago, when our sister publication – Macau Business – published a special report dedicated to Forum Macau, it received little more than silence from that entity. In other words, instead of taking the opportunity to publicize its strategies and goals, it chose to do nothing and all requests for interviews remained unanswered.
We understand the discomfort within the Forum Macau and, thus, the return of Echo Chan. We believe that, this time around, she’ll want to change things.
Often times, silence plays against you, when you feel that you’re being politically correct, but you’re really just feeding the lack of effectiveness.
Curiously, the Forum Macau officials will have their spring lunch with the Portuguese and English media. We hope that there’s more on the menu than just New Year wishes and a desire to only talk again at the 2018 spring lunch.
If the Forum Macau wants to be respected by its member states, then it must impose strict rules, preventing diplomats from crossing the line or taking personal advantage of the organization. It also must intervene more, using a strategy that is supported by all members and, especially, Beijing. It must exist in the media and with the media, with a multilateral strategy, so that its actions are effective – and produce concrete results in the business world, instead of mere protocols that are signed during fairs, just because it looks good, but lead to nothing.
This may well be a second opportunity for Forum Macau, or it may just be the continuation of an existence that is being kept artificially alive. It’s up to Forum Macau to decide what it wants to do and how it wants to do it. Time is running against it.