Editorial:Soaring price of pork on the mainland

【明報專訊】COMPARED with the storm of protest against amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, the rocketing price of pork gives mainlanders worthier cause for concern. In August the price of pork rose sharply by 27%. In some regions, there are even policies in place that limit each person's daily purchase of low‑priced pork to one kilogram.

In 2015, the State Council unveiled the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution. The related departments decided in no time to adjust the overall structure of the country's pig husbandry. In 2016, the eight southern provinces that are criss‑crossed with watercourses — including Guangdong — were designated as the "husbandry limitation zone". Sichuan and Hunan, which are in the zone, were once the provinces with the highest numbers of pigs kept on farms. As of late 2017, 49 thousand "husbandry prohibition zones" were designated. Occupying 636 thousand kilometres, these zones accounted for 17.3% of the total area of pig farms. 213 thousand small pig farms that kept fewer than 500 pigs were demolished in an attempt to relocate pig husbandry to northern provinces where maize was mainly produced. After the outbreak of African swine flu last year, the authorities imposed strict limitations on cross‑provincial transportation of pigs. In the north where pigs could not be exported, the wholesale price plummeted. But in the south the thirst for pigs sent prices rocketing. It can be seen that the demarcation between pig‑production and pig‑consumption zones has exacerbated the problems brought about by swine flu. In the first half of this year, the number of live pigs in fences fell to the lowest point in twenty years.

Now the State Council has decreed the revocation of the limitation and prohibition of pig husbandry that was beyond the confines of laws and regulations. It has also given its support for pig husbandry. But it is now too late. According to media reports, due to the lack of sows, orders have to be placed for their imports from Europe. It takes time to process the orders and transportation. After they are delivered, they will have to be quarantined and inspected for four months before they can be paired and breed. Then they will be kept for another eight months. It will take at least a year and a half before the pork comes onto the market.

Two years ago, to combat the practice of "opening a hole in the wall", the Beijing and Shanghai authorities launched a massive drive to demolish street‑facing shops, severely disrupting the service industry in the cities. Citing the need to beautify the cityscape, some municipal governments have previously forced the closure of many markets, booth places and night markets. Now in an attempt to stimulate consumption, all the major cities are organising "one‑street night markets" to prop up the "night economy". But the previous demolition has hurt business and led to the disappearance of the backbone of the "night economy" made up of small booths and peddlers. As some people have said, "Since roadside booths were prohibited, it has been hard to find breakfast to eat, let alone a midnight snack".

It can be seen from the above incidents that the government's policies are formulated without enough consultation and are often ill‑conceived and lacking in coordination. The crux of the matter is who has made all this possible. It should be said that the abnormal political "ecology" on the mainland has led to such a bureaucratic culture. The power wielded by officials in all ranks comes from their superiors, who choose and appoint their subordinates. The superiors assign tasks and set targets, issuing the threats that those who fail to do a good job have to leave office. As a result, officials in every rank care about their superiors rather than the reality. What is sought after by those high up in the hierarchy is pursued with abandon by those low down. The Communist Party's documents carry more weight than the law. The people do not dare challenge them, and low‑ranking officials do not dare raise doubt about them. If they fail to enforce them adequately, they have to be held liable. It remains to be seen whether such a political culture will be a topic for reform when the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China discusses the modernisation of the ability to govern next month.

明報社評 2019.09.09:唯上懶政一刀切 豬價漲反映官場積弊







criss‑cross:to intersect or cross repeatedly

confines:limits or borders

crux:the most important or difficult part of a problem or an issue

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