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Monday, January 20, 2014

Under pressure – Sin Chew Daily

JANUARY 18, 2014

Finally the government has come to the realisation that rising prices have triggered widespread dissatisfaction and has adopted some measures to tackle the problem.

Deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the cabinet had instructed all ministers to walk into the lives of ordinary Malaysians, visit the wholesale markets, grocery stores, supermarkets, etc. to get a better picture of the problem encountered by the people. Meanwhile, he himself took the lead by visiting some stores last Saturday and talked to the business owners and consumers alike.

In another development, the cabinet has also set up a special committee headed by the DPM to tackle the issues arising from skyrocketing prices.

This is the first time the government has expressly declared a series of measures that it will take to tackle rising prices. But whether such measures and policies will effectively address the problem is yet to be seen.

Prices of many items are on the rise as we ushered in the New Year: property assessment rate, fuel prices, household gas, sugar, electricity tariff, transport fees, everything. More worryingly, when the GST is put into implementation next April, another round of price hikes is expected to further aggravate the already high inflationary pressure.

Even though the government has repeatedly assured that it will adopt all kinds of measures to stem uncontrolled price hikes in a bid to lessen the financial burden of rakyat, and has said confidently that the impact from this round of inflationary pressure will not be excessive and that the impact is only temporary, over the past few months we have seen goods prices increasing one after another. Unfortunately, the reactions from our politicians, be they from the ruling coalition or the opposition pact, have been utterly disappointing and at times frustrating.

Apparently the magnitude of the latest price hikes has far exceeded the wildest imaginations of politicians who have grossly underestimated the frustration this has caused to the ordinary citizens such that erratic decisions have been made. For instance, the remunerations of elected reps have been drastically increased, large sum of money is spent on a new official car, etc. All these have triggered widespread dissatisfaction among the people.

As a matter of fact, Malaysians are well aware that living in an open economy, there is no way we can insulate ourselves from the impact of external goods prices. We are also aware that the government needs to rationalise the existing subsidy schemes in order to expand its revenues in cutting back budgetary deficits, given the fact that the government is facing the severe challenges of escalating public debts and ballooning deficits.

We are not stubbornly against salary increases for elected reps or new official cars for state leaders. What we are concerned about is that our leaders have failed to honor their election pledges of putting people first at a time when many are struggling under the smothering inflationary pressure.

The concerns and grumbles of the public are easily explicable, and it is unfair for our leaders to accuse the rakyat of squarely blaming the government as this will only intensify their frustration. Inflation is an economic problem as well as a highly intricate political issue, not something that can be fixed with the cabinet ministers walking into retail stores or setting up some special committee. This is what we all have to come to terms with.

In the face of the current doldrums, we can only look to the government and relevant ministries to tighten their surveillance over market prices and curtail any unreasonable price hike. More importantly, federal and state governments must lay down their differences and work hand in hand to improve the domestic investment climate and create more job opportunities for the people, in an attempt to alleviate the inflationary pressure through boosting productivity and revenue. –, January 18, 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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