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FOCUS: COMING HOME...

The colonial age seems to be over, Macao, The Panama Canal... What's next?

MACAO RETURNS TO THE MOTHERLAND 
442 years of Portuguese rule ended in December at the same time as the last European colony in Asia

 A river of pearls is perhaps what many people would like to buy after their visit to one of the many casinos that populate the territory of Macao. However the only pearl they will take away with them will probably be the photo of the River of Pearls delta on which the Macao peninsula lies.
 Twenty square kilometres are all the territory takes up*. Large bridges connect the peninsula that gives the territory its name with the two islands of Taipa and Coloane and the delta contains many other smaller islands. It was in 1554 when the Portuguese started to colonise the area and by 1557 the archipelago was completely under their control. Macao was the first European colony in Asia and in December it became the last.
 Many compare Macao with Hong Kong, not surprisingly as they both have a long colonial past, but the two new 'Special Administrative Regions* are more like cousins than brothers. Hong Kong is the bright and vibrant symbol of the Asian 'tiger' economies with few external signs of its colonial past. Perhaps the most important part of its colonial heritage is the second language - English - that gives it an advantage in the fast and furious financial world. Macao, on the other hand, still maintains a colonial air and the skyscrapers don't dominate the skyline in the same way. Of its 430,000 inhabitants 95% are Chinese and only 2% speak Portuguese. The present, and perhaps the future of the region, is in has been the casino business and affluent Chinese from Hong Kong and the other important cities of the region are regular visitors.the casino business and affluent Chinese from Hong Kong and the other important cities of the region are regular visitors
 The newly created Special Administrative Region', part of the continuing Chinese experiment with 'one country, two systems', will conserve its autonomy for 50 years (except in the areas of Defence and Foreign policy) and the local currency (the pataca) will continue to circulate. New elections for the Parliament will take place in 2001 and in theory the central government in Beijing can not apply the death penalty within the territory.
 What is not certain for the region is the future of organised crime. The casinos and prostitutes that are everywhere in Macao are banned* in the rest of China and the taxes* that the authorities make from these activities count for approximately 50% of the budget* income. As in the rest of the world these activities are generally controlled by criminal organisations. The new authority's ability to fight against the mafias installed in the area without destroying the activities that provide the area its affluence will be the tirst big test.
 
PANAMA'S CANAL
The U.S.A passes the control of the Panama Canal over to the country it goes through 
     
 This end of millennium Christmas has been especially kind to Panama. New Year's Eve was the last day of American control of a large part of its territory and the Three Kings (including one from Spain called Juan Carlos) came a few days early to give the Panama Canal back to the country that gives it its name. The ceremony occurred two weeks before the official date, on 14th December, as it was assumed that everyone would be busy elsewhere on the last New Year's Eve of the century. The happy day was not totally clear of polemic. The delegation sent for the occasion from the United States was totally extent of any relevant member of the Clin-
 This is how it was built...
==> 1869 - The French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps successfully completes the Suez Canal.
==> 1881 - Lesseps sells millions of shares to the French public, sets up* the Universal Company and starts to build in Panama.
==> 1889 - Due to enormous technical and labour problems the Company goes bankrupt and work stops.
==> 1903 - After the independance of Panama (with U.S. help) work begins again, this time controlled and financed by the U.S.A.
==>1914 - The steam ship Arcon inaugurates the route and crosses the 79.6 km of the canal in 9 hours and 40 mins
 ton administration. Madeleine Albright, the American Secretary of State, was expected to attend as the protocol demanded but in the end she did not. The responsibility instead went to the ex president Jimmy Carter who would have been there anyway as the President who signed the original handing over* agreement in 1977 with the late Omar Torrijos, the then President of Panama. Many analysts saw this as typical of the attitude in general of the United States towards its southern neighbours, particularly as there are those in Washington who still don't agree with the idea of handing over such an important strategical position.
 
 

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