Voice and happiness


There is no dearth of studies and surveys on Macau, its society and economy. All kinds of associations and research organisations regularly publicise the results of this or that enquiry. More often than not, little or no information is provided concerning its objectives, the methodologies, the sample characteristics or the specific content of the questions asked.
These are issues that limit our ability to distinguish between reliable or at least properly conducted attempts to understand social phenomena, and those that possibly amount to no more than veiled lobbying or campaigning. It is not the first time I touch on these issues here, but the purpose today is not to come back to them. For the sake of the argument set out below, let us leave these ‘technical’ issues aside.
The results of a survey concerning the coming legislative election were recently made public at a press conference. The promoters revealed some of the general conclusions they reached – and even without discussing their particular merits they provide some food for thought.
Let us focus on the findings related to the desired profiles of the legislators and, by extension, the issue of representation.
According to press reports, most respondents would like to see – I quote from various media sources – legislators that are ‘closer to the people / independent’ or, as framed in one instance, ‘of lower class’ origin. In the latter case, that would be a characteristic favoured by more than 70 per cent of respondents. Conversely, among the less desired candidates were those with links to the public administration or the legal professions. Other considerations apart, the latter are baffling outcomes. We are talking about a political body destined to produce laws and define or influence public policies, activities in which both categories are heavily involved.
If we take these results as a fair reflection of popular sentiment, they suggest a manifest misfit between the representatives and the represented. Or, to put it another way, they indicate that many residents seem to feel they are not represented or are under-represented in the political system.
Very recently, in the Legislative Assembly, the Chief Executive showed great concern about the low level of satisfaction or happiness displayed by the local population and vouched to look for its causes. The considerations made above suggest that political representation matters may not be the lesser of them, and may even provide a good starting point in that quest.