To be continued . . .

The Chief Executive recently went to the Legislative Assembly for a Q & A session. Several members of the House used the occasion to question the head of government. So far, so good: that’s how things are supposed to work. Many topics were touched upon. Food prices were, not for the first time, among the most topical and caused a sort of public uproar. As is often the case, not all statements or insinuations were as firmly framed or underpinned as we might have hoped.
For example, lawmakers asked the CE if rising food prices were a result of imported inflation. Bearing in mind that inflation in Macau is slowing down, overall price increases in China have been quite tame lately and the renminbi has been weakening – that was a curious take. It was possibly framed as a rhetorical question, meant to extract from the CE something more than just a general declaration.
According to media reports, the CE argued that, contrary to what people often see in the news, the source of rising prices was not a monopoly in imports; it is retailers who are responsible for the higher prices. He gave the example of pork, citing a great disparity between wholesale and retail prices.
The reports do not say if anyone introduced the issue previously, or if the CE decided to prevent any argument along those lines and exculpate the commonly presumed culprits in advance. Anyway, the argument alone does not show what it seems to intend. The fact, if established, that retailers are ‘hammering’ consumers, does not imply, and much less prove that importers and wholesalers cannot or are not doing the same. One thing does not exclude the other. Anyhow, no-one doubts that a more open and competitive market would go a long way in limiting the power of either wholesalers or retailers. Ours is, by any common standard, a very non-competitive market.
A representative of the retailers claimed meanwhile that the figures the CE presented to the Assembly were not real, and blamed yet a third party – smugglers. Interesting argument, as one would expect that smuggling would actually force prices down. But never mind. In these kinds of arguments, as is so often the case, each party will select, when not creating, suitable facts. Who will bother to check what they are in reality?