Tsang hints more will be spent on watching prices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2008, 12:00am

More help for groups that monitor consumer prices is likely to feature in the chief executive's next policy address, after Donald Tsang Yam-kuen hinted yesterday the government wanted to support such activities.

During a visit to Mei Foo, where he compared prices between a small store and a large-chain supermarket, Mr Tsang praised the Consumer Council for recent surveys that monitored rising prices and publicised information about which stores offered the best deals.

'This is a good thing,' he said of the surveys. 'They will undoubtedly help stabilise prices. To do this they will need resources and the support of certain district figures and district councils.

'We will have talks and see how it's possible to maintain this kind of service. I hope to be able to help the Consumer Council or relevant groups working in this area lessen their burden so they can maintain this kind of service.'

A survey in March by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong first drew the public's attention to the big differences in prices for the same items in different types of stores. The Consumer Council soon afterwards began its own surveys. In May it began a fortnightly survey of major supermarkets and small stores and published the price comparisons online.

In its first survey, the watchdog found a brand of canned fish cost nearly 70 per cent more in a supermarket than a grocery store. Another survey conducted by Middle Class Power later that month found 12 per cent of 792 respondents wanted the government to give the council more funding to conduct such surveys.

Mr Tsang's return to the streets is intended to help gather ideas for his policy address in October, and yesterday he reiterated he would pay extra attention to livelihood issues.

He made an unprecedented appearance in the Legislative Council on Thursday to urge lawmakers to put an end to the 'excessive dispute' over new political appointments and concentrate on 'real work' - the improvement of people's livelihoods.

He said he hoped for more transparency over how businesses set their prices.

'However, our market is free. Our government has no mechanism for controlling prices, and we will not do it. What we can do is ensure the market is more open,' he said.

Inflation reached 5.4 per cent in April, with food prices rising 19.4 per cent year on year.


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