Because China already played a major role in the economy of Macau, largely through investment, the transfer to Chinese rule was not expected to significantly alter the economy as a whole. Macauís economy is largely dependent on profits from gambling and tourism. In 2000 6.7 million tourists visited Macau annually, many for the gambling opportunities. Most tourists came from nearby Hong Kong, but large numbers also came from other parts of China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Industry has long been important to the regionís economy. Although employment in industrial sectors has declined in recent years, the value of manufactured goods has continued to increase modestly. Macauís chief manufactured products include textiles and clothing, food, toys, and fireworks. Consumer goods account for three-quarters of Macauís exports. The United States is the largest export market, followed by the countries of the European Union (EU). Hong Kong and other parts of China are Macauís largest suppliers of imports, which include food, industrial goods, and fuels. In the mid-1990s imports exceeded exports, but the balance of trade was more than offset by the enormous profits earned from gambling and tourism.
Macauís unit of currency is the pataca (8.03 patacas equal U.S.$1; 2000). Many establishments accept Hong Kong currency as well as patacas. Macau has a total of about 20 local and foreign banks. The Monetary and Foreign Exchange Authority issues the regionís currency, and the Banco Nacional Ultramarino functions as the regionís central bank.
Macau has an excellent transportation network that improved rapidly, especially in links with China, as the return to Chinese rule approached. The regionís principal connections traditionally were shipping routes oriented mainly toward Hong Kong. Ships now serve the region from Hong Kong, other parts of China, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and The Netherlands. Passenger service has consisted mostly of high-speed hydrofoil and catamaran service to Hong Kong, less than one hour away; recently, however, service has been extended to other Chinese ports in the Zhu Jiang Delta. Bus service to towns and cities in the Zhu Jiang Delta has also expanded. The Macau International Airport, which opened in 1995, provides service to Hong Kong and other parts of China.
Macau has a wide range of modern telecommunications and media services, although most television broadcasts originate in Hong Kong. In 1984 a public Cantonese Chinese and Portuguese television station began broadcasting in Macau. One public radio station and one private station broadcast in both Portuguese and Cantonese. In 1996Macau had 10 daily newspapers.