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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

與香港反修例風暴相比,豬肉價格飈升更令內地民眾關心,8月豬價大漲27%,一些地方甚至實施平價豬肉每人每日限購1公斤。

2015年,國務院公布《水污染防治行動計劃》,相關部門隨即決定調整全國養豬業佈局,2016年,明確將廣東等8個水網密集南方省區定為限養區,區內的四川和湖南,曾居內地養豬數量前兩位,至2017年底,全國共劃定禁養區4.9萬個,面積63.6萬平方公里,約佔生豬養殖區總面積17.3%,21.3萬個飼養500頭以下的小養殖場被「清拆」,以引導養豬業向北方玉米主產區省份轉移。去年非洲豬瘟疫情爆發後,當局嚴限豬跨省調運,北方豬運不出,批發價暴跌,南方則求豬若渴,價格飛漲,可見,活豬產銷分區的改革加劇了豬瘟的後果。今年上半年生豬存欄量降至20年來最低點。

現在國務院下令,取消超出法律法規的禁養、限養規定,支持農戶養豬,但為時已晚,據報道,由於缺少母豬,現在向歐洲落單進口,辦理手續及運輸需時,運抵後需隔離防疫觀察4個月,才能配種繁殖,再飼養8個月,這批豬肉應市,最快也要在一年半之後。

兩年前,北京和上海整治「開牆打洞」,大規模拆封臨街店舖,嚴重破壞城市服務業生態。一些城市政府以整頓市容為由,關閉了許多市場、攤點、夜市,現在為刺激消費,各大城市又紛紛籌辦「夜市一條街」,催谷「夜經濟」。但早前的掃蕩導致城市經濟蕭條,已令小攤小販這些「夜經濟」主體消失了,正如有市民所言,「自從路邊攤不讓擺了。早餐都困難,更不用提夜宵了」。

從上述事例中,可以看出,當局的政策制訂由於諮詢不足,往往考慮欠周詳、協調不夠。問題是孰令致之,應該說內地特殊的政治生態,助長了這種官場文化。各級官員的權力來源是上級選拔任命,在上級定任務、落指標,做不好就下台的威嚇下,各級官員都是唯上不唯實,上有所好,下必甚焉。中央紅頭文件比法律更管用,民眾不能挑戰,下級不可質疑,執行不力,就被問責追究,如此政治文化,未知能否在下月的中共十九屆四中全會討論國家治理能力現代化時,被列入改革議題。

■Glossary

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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