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Author Topic: Don’t make us scapegoats, traders tell ministry  (Read 1022 times)

Don’t make us scapegoats, traders tell ministry
« on: March 15, 2016, 10:23:56 PM »
Article is kinda jumpy and made me confused after reading.


Don’t make us scapegoats, traders tell ministry
By Jonathan Edward
The Malay Mail Online
16 March 2016

PETALING JAYA, March 16 — Blaming traders for the rise in cost of living oversimplifies complex issues, according to traders’ associations.

Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesalers Association president Chong Tek Keong said that businesses and traders were largely responsible and capable of self-regulation.

“Any businessman knows over-charging customers is neither sustainable nor ethical. Blaming traders alone for profiteering as one of the reasons for the rise in cost of living is hardly justified,” he said.

Chong said further up the supply chain, prices of local agricultural products fluctuated greatly as well, with farmers raising prices due to environmental factors, among other factors.

“For instance, wholesalers stocking up from farmers in Cameron Highlands are subject to the demands of farmers.

“Bad weather conditions may result in  farmers demanding higher prices due to a poor harvest. So wholesalers have to fork out more as the farmers have the option of selling their produce overseas especially to neighbouring countries,” he said.

Profiteering has become a hot issue in the aftermath of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), along with the poorly performing ringgit and subsidy cuts last year.

On March 9, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the government would practise ‘positive intervention’ against profiteers and warned they would face jail time.

Last week, Domestic Trade, Co-Operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin went further by referring to such greedy traders as being ‘godless’.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association president Ho Su Mong said the high cost of living was partly due to suppliers who maintained high prices.

“They pushed up the price of raw materials during the petrol price hike and have yet to lower it to match the recent drop in fuel prices.

Ho said local councils needed to take steps to ease the pressure on small businesses and help prevent them from going bust.

“Local councils have dramatically increased licence and assessment fees, with alcohol licences in some areas experiencing a hike of 100 per cent,” he said.

He also said going after restaurants and small businesses would not solve the issue as petty traders and shop owners were mostly able to regulate themselves.

“None of our members has been issued notices for profiteering. What we need are regulations on manufacturers and suppliers who keep prices high,” he said.

Federation of Malaysia Hawkers Association executive adviser Datuk Lee Teong Chwee said the ministry should look higher up the supply chain to combat profiteering.

“Suppliers need to be better regulated. It is not difficult to understand. Expensive raw materials affect retailers, business operators and last but not least consumers.

“We need to have measures to tackle situations like this. Price controls and better regulations will solve the problem, not finger-pointing,” he said.

Meanwhile, traders and business owners said they were forced to raise prices and upset at being made scapegoats for the soaring cost of living.

A restaurant owner in Section 13 here claimed the Domestic Trade, Co-Operatives and Consumerism Ministry was engaged in a witch hunt to pin the blame for rising prices on so-called profiteers.

“Who runs a business without expecting to make a profit? That is the whole point of doing business: to make a profit.

“It is disturbing to see a trend in blaming business owners for rising prices. It is the government’s policies that influence the cost of living,” he said.

While he acknowledged that some businesses were indeed profiteering, he insisted the average food operator would not indiscriminately raise prices.

“Every time something happens, such as a toll hike, GST or rise in fuel prices, we try to absorb the cost because if people choose to eat at home, we end up on the losing end,” he said.

A sundry shop owner in Klang said he would ‘overcharge’ for certain items to off-set his operating costs, though he only did so because the cost of living affected him too.

“I have to make a little more off items that do not have price controls, or I will not be able to break even. Some extra profits help keep my children in college,” he said.

The 53-year-old insisted the issue had been blown out of proportion and the ministry was going after small fish and letting the real offenders off the hook.

“The way the issue is portrayed makes people think businesses alone are responsible for the higher cost of living. This is untrue and it is very disappointing to face such accusations,” he said.

A vegetable wholesaler at the Selayang Wholesale Market said he would be raising prices of vegetables this week.

“As you know the weather has been really hot. The farmers are charging more, claiming they have to use more water for farming which adds to the costs.

“So it’s either I absorb the cost or pass it on to consumers. As a businessman, what do you think I will do?” he asked.