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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Don’t get the wrong target – Sin Chew Daily

JANUARY 22, 2014

Amid resentment against price hikes, the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism resolutely launched the Ops Harga 2.0 recently and actions have been taken against some traders at the market, as well as grocery and restaurant operators.

Instead of giving a verbal warning or issuing summonses, those found breaking the law – stipulated under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 – would be directly taken to court, worrying and scaring businesses in the affected industry.

The actions taken by the ministry are meant to tackle price increases that have burdened consumers. However, since there are so many factors causing the increase of prices, why actions are taken only against small business retailers? This is the doubt of affected business operators.

Federation of Hawkers and Small Traders Association president Datuk Lee Teong Chwee said that the ministry should not put the blame only on retailers but must launch spot checks on manufacturers, importers, retailers and wholesalers.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors' General Association president Ho Su Mong said that the ministry should first give a verbal warning instead of taking law-breaking business operators directly to court.

Indeed, the wind of price hikes is blowing stronger and stronger. Unless if inflation is properly controlled, or the people's resentment will continue to grow and the government would be inevitably become the target of public criticism. The "kangkung effect" should have proven it.

In fact, the government's huge spending and debt surges have forced it to take a series of remedial measures, including expanding revenue sources, rationalising the subsidy system and imposing the goods and services tax (GST) in April next year. It also allowed petrol prices to continue rising while electricity tariffs have been increased by 15%. Together with the falling ringgit, they formed the factors causing the wind of price hikes unstoppable. As long as these fundamental problems are not solved, the potential crisis of worsening inflation will forever exist.

Economic experts do not blindly agree against the government's subsidy rationalisation and the GST implementation. The problem is, the implementation process is too aggressive. Particularly, it seems that the government's economic policy is still being monopolised by some interest groups, such as the government allowed high profit-making Tenaga Nasional Bhd to increase electricity tariffs and highway concessionaires to increase toll charges. These have caused extreme resentment in the society.

In fact, in the face of the current wind of price hikes which is getting almost out of control, not only members of the general public are suffering, but small businesses and traders are also bearing a strong pressure. They are trapped in the feelings of melancholy and helplessness. Many small businesses and traders said that doing business in Malaysia this year is very difficult. In particular, traditional grocery shops have been caught in an impasse as they are also facing strong competitions from supermarkets and hypermarkets.

From the consumer's standpoint, we welcome the ministry's move to deal with profiteers. We definitely cannot tolerate the act of raising prices indiscriminately. However, we also understand that selling prices will have to be increased if the cost is increased. When kembung fish increases to RM14 per kg, a greater reason could be its supply and demand has decided the price, not necessarily because of profiteers.

Therefore, it is neither right nor fair if the ministry fails to curb inflation from the sources but simply locks the target at small businesses and traders. –, January 22, 2014.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

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