OPINION-Virtues and resources

The recent days brought up several topics of significance. One is bound to produce much debate, if not controversy: the widely quoted statement by the top judge in the city, suggesting that it is time to address the local legal system’s problems. Not many details were given about what those problems might be in practice, but a significant part of it appeared to bear on the legal source of inspiration. That provides not enough footing for a substantial analysis of whatever issues may be at stake. It is better to leave such a discussion for a time when the purported problems are better outlined. Anyway, the legal operators, if not us all, have been put on notice that changes are brewing.

Then, at the Legislative Assembly, there was the presentation of two reports: the 2019 Budget execution report and the report on the public accounts that the Audit Commission is bound to make every year. Both documents usually pass without much meaningful debate, and that is a sorry state of affairs. These matters deserved more attention than the one they get. These are a real opportunity to evaluate the public performance based on what was done, compared with what was foreseen or promised. But we eschew it, and hardly any discussion takes place. This is not an exclusive feature of Macau, but it is disappointing, here as anywhere else.

It is undoubtedly easier in these times to go about virtue signaling than about substantial arguments. And there is plenty about that in a recent press release on the anti-tobacco inspection battles. The third-quarter results are out, and they are, I dare to say, impressive, if not perplexing. The release is full of figures (as it is often the habit nowadays), making it a tad tiring to read. 

But let’s get over it and focus on a few impressive figures. The Health Bureau carried out no less than over 120,000 actions in the first nine months of the year, which amounts to more than 450 actions per day – and no holidays. That means almost one inspection for every three minutes, non-stop. The daily catch? Some six violators, most caught in open public spaces. But they have identified (and presumably monitor) 103 places especially prone to law-breaking. 

One can marvel at the volume of resources these actions imply, including time spent, staff mobilized, and funds consumed. Do they ever sleep?