Missing meaning

Lately, the expression ‘new normal’ has often been repeated, referring to the present (and future?) situation of the Macau economy. The expression has, in fact, become a cliché. In a way, it mimics the popularity of the same expression, so often used also to allude to the new conditions prevailing in the Mainland economy. What we find less often are people explaining what, in practice, are the most prominent features of the so-called ‘new normal’, and their consequences? What is it that is ‘normal’ or about to become ‘normal’ about them? The expression is overused possibly more as a means of protection than as an attempt at an explanation. By repetition and diffusion, like any good cliché, it allows people to talk about something as if they all understood what was going on and that knowledge was widely shared. So, no-one has to admit that perhaps, just perhaps, we are sailing mostly uncharted waters (another cliché!) and trying to find a sense of direction as we go along. I still have to find a convincing description of what the ‘new normal’ is supposed to be for Macau (or for China, for that matter). Let us look at what is happening with new investments in Cotai. Regularly, we are informed of delays relating to this or that project. Most of the time, they are minor delays, a few months or so. But they can become big, if a small delay follows another, and then another. Sometimes pain is delivered in small instalments. Repetition builds tolerance. We can surely say that delays are not uncommon in big investment projects; they may even be considered a regular feature, at least in some places or under some fairly common conditions. That does not mean they are irrelevant, or that their causes should be dismissed as unimportant. Almost surprisingly, however, we seldom get a clear explanation about the factors behind the delays. The operators, we have to assume, designed their plans for a different political and economic framework. ‘Build and they will come’, ‘the sky is the limit’, and so on – does anyone still remember? We could assume that deep reviews of investment plans and cash flows are and have been under way. Yet, nobody’s telling, and nobody seems to be asking how they define their ‘new normal’. But I gather that would be of more than a passing interest to all of us.