Words and facts

There’s a mostly constant and, up to a point, quite annoying characteristic of economic information in Macau. Statements are produced, to the right and the left, without reference to actual data, or facts that, without much effort, could be well established. Often, those producing the statements have a direct and obvious interest in the subject, if not in actually influencing the public perception of the issue at stake. They are seldom asked to present the factual elements that, presumably, underpin their claims Let me give you just such a recent example. A couple of days ago, a representative of a real estate association declared that prices for property had fallen by 30 per cent since the beginning of the year. Further, he added, prices were stabilising, reaching a ‘minimal limit’. That’s like shouting: “Guys! It’s time to buy!” It may well be true – or, maybe not. Certainly, he has access to information, through the association members, that we do not have. But there is also an apparent benefit for their brethren if he succeeds in making people believe those statements are accurate, a true reflection of reality. How can we decide? The first question to ask is evident: where is the evidence? What facts, examples, verifiable figures, underpin such assertions? Nothing! Well, I’m not assuming there is malice in the statement; but there are obvious interests at stake. More than anyone, I venture, real estate agents should volunteer compelling evidence to support the identified trends and figures. Otherwise, they open themselves to the suspicion that their words may not be totally dependable or unbiased. And what do the official statistics tell us? They hardly support that claim. Let us look into the residential segment, which is the one that more directly impacts the life of the average resident. The statistics tell us that the average price per square metre in the second quarter was 0.6 per cent higher than in the last quarter of 2014; and it was about 6.5 per cent higher than in the first quarter of this year. In Taipa, a much-sought after location, the values were unsurprisingly even higher. The corresponding figures were 1.5 per cent and 23.7 per cent, respectively. Therefore, it appears that for those claims to be true, we should have witnessed prices dropping across the board, in just the last couple of summer months (not since the beginning of the year), by something like 30 per cent, give or take a few percentage points. That would amount to a real crash in the real estate sector and would possibly have been in the news and become a favourite theme of conversation in town. That does not seem to have been the case. So, until the original claim is backed by something more solid than just the spoken word, it is possibly wise to hold our judgment.