KUCHING: The federal government has not ruled out intervening in the market and taking over the role of middleman to stop profiteering by unscrupulous wholesalers and distributors.
However, the government is not keen to adopt such a drastic measure as they still believe that letting supply and demand set market prices is the best solution, Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan told reporters after visiting Medan Niaga Satok as part of the government’s activities to monitor the price of goods.
“If this situation persists, it is not impossible for the government to propose to enter the sundry business and become a middleman. If the government comes in, it will have tremendous financial power to lower prices.
“However, this method will interfere with the local economy. That’s why if possible, we request the businessmen and traders to reduce or self control the prices individually as we believe in the demand and supply of the market.
“But if there are middlemen manipulating the prices, our advice and warning is, if they persist in taking advantage of the rakyat’s hardship, we will have no choice but to increase KR1M outlets and empower the cooperatives involved in sundry trade to take up middleman roles, so that they will be able to compete with the middlemen who are behind the increase in prices.”
“If the government intervenes in this manner, don’t get angry with the government if your business is disrupted,” Abdul Rahman said, adding that the reasons given for the price increases were unjustified.
“We know they (the middlemen) are lying. The only way is for us to beat them at their own game.”
Responding to a question about the effectiveness of enforcement, the minister noted that there were tens of thousands of markets throughout the country and that it would be impossible for the ministry to monitor every single one of them.
As such, he urged the public and NGOs to make use of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism’s toll free consumer complaint hotline 1-800-886-800 to help the government monitor the situation.
“To say that there is a complete failure of enforcement is unfair as the enforcement cannot be everywhere,” he said.
In response to another question, the minister said that sundry goods and daily necessities especially those with high turnover, were those most susceptible to price manipulation by irresponsible parties.
Meanwhile, the minister said that overall, prices of goods and daily necessities in Medan Niaga Satok had remained stable.
“The price of fish and prawns has actually come down compared to three or four months ago. Sundry goods have also not increased (in price) compared to other areas. I would like to express my thanks for this.
“However, prices of some other goods have increased by 10 to 15 per cent. I myself have called the trader and also the supplier concerned to ask why they increased the price excessively. They gave all sorts of excuses and I have warned and reminded them not to burden the rakyat and not to take advantage of the rise in the living costs.”
The minister also revealed that the ministry’s proposed Resident Representative Committee (Jawatankuasa Perwakilan Penduduk) would have a permanent bureau in certain urban areas to monitor the prices of goods and inform the government regarding the increase in prices to help the ministry monitor prices nationwide.
During yesterday’s visit, Abdul Rahman spoke with various stall owners and traders to get their feedback.
Among the senior government representatives and civil servants accompanying Abdul Rahman on the visit were Housing and Local Government Ministry chief secretary Dr Arpah Abdul Razak, Assistant Minister of Resource Planning cum Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Bumiputera Entrepreneur Development) Datuk Naroden Majais, Assistant Housing Minister cum Youth Development Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) mayor Datuk Abang Wahap Abang Julai and Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) state director Paza Dan.