KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 (Bernama) — “Fuel price has gone down, (but) the price of goods stays high.
“It is swift for the price to pick up, however when it is time for the price to drop, it becomes so difficult”!
Those were among the grouses from consumers after the government lowered the petrol pump price by 15 sen to RM2.55 a litre and that for diesel by eight sen to RM2.50 sen a litre last Aug 23.
Most of them were already hard-pressed by the jump in the price of goods, sparked by the early last June hike in petrol pump price by 78 sen a litre from RM1.92, and diesel by RM1 to RM2.58.
Several days before the fasting month of Ramadan, a friend of this writer complained that the price of fish at the market was high. He said a fishmonger told him that the price would be higher in the coming weeks. “It’s the fasting month,” came the fishmonger’s nonchalant reply.
Fancy this. That fishmonger and other traders could be using the calculator to find out how much they could earn during Ramadan and the coming festive seasons. SPENDING BINGE It seems that these traders are taking the cue from the tendency to over indulge by consumers in this country. They know that many of these consumers, particularly the Muslims, would be on a spending spree in the month of Ramadan, either on groceries or ready-cooked food for the breaking of fast. The urge to splurge is more evident in the week before Hari Raya and other religious festivals. Visits to shopping complexes and Ramadan bazaars would find the same scenario, that consumers are on a shopping spree as if there is no tomorrow! Traders frequently use gimmicks like ‘Cheap Sale’, ‘Mega Sale’, “Price Crush’, ‘Festive Season Sale’ and others to lure the public, who at times may lose direction when planning their spending on items. An example is the figures for the month-long Malaysian Mega Sale Carnival (MMSC) that ended last Sept 1. The carnival recorded 24 per cent more activities during its first week as compared to the same period in 2007, based on statistics revealed by Mastercard. The turnover for the first week alone was a whopping RM188 million, as against RM151 million for the same period the year before. Malaysians were reported to be the biggest spenders at the total of RM171 million!
HIGH FOOD PRICE Meanwhile there are also many complaints that, as Ramadan enters its third week, the price of food is expensive and the prices varies from one seller to another. For example, the kuih sold is either 40 sen or 50 sen per piece. In fact many traders are ‘forcing’ consumers to buy wholesale, like five pieces of kuih for RM2. Hence, for those who wish to buy only two pieces which works out to only 80 sen, their requests are not entertained.
A random check at a farmers’ market in the first week of Ramadan revealed that price of goods are expected to stay high throughout the fasting month. According to a trader at the market, the price is expected to dip only after Hari Raya. “The price is not government-controlled, it is decided by the wholesalers”, said a trader at the same market with a hint of sarcasm. LACK OF ENFORCEMENT Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations’ (Fomca) chief executive Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said Fomca was aware of the grouses made by consumers against the steep food price. “Despite the reduction in fuel price, there is no reciprocation from that of other consumer goods. “There is no enforcement as there are neither rules and regulations nor laws to enable the government to do so,” he said. Fomca hopes that the government makes an in-depth consideration before deciding to hike the fuel price as such an action would only create a chain reaction among the price of consumer goods. Commenting further, Mohd Yusof said it was common for the price of daily essentials to soar during festive seasons.
“This is due to the higher demand. On many occasions, items that are price-controlled during festive seasons are sold at higher prices even before the date of commencement of the control.
“But the most significant price hike is on ready-cooked food sold at Ramadan bazaars. The complaints are that for the same price, the food is smaller in quantity as compared to previous years,” he said.
Mohd Yusof said the consumers should also share part of the blame, as they appeared unperturbed over the price hike during the festive seasons.
“Even though they are not happy, they would still make the buy no matter how much they would have to pay. This attitude should be changed as it allows unscrupulous traders to take advantage,” he said.
He said Fomca is hoping that the consumers would be prudent in their spending. “They should not spend excessively with the exception on the day of the festivity itself as guests are expected at their home. Instead the consumers can refrain from buying items that they do not really need and compare the prices offered before making their purchase. Recently, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said the ministry received assurance from all quarters that there was adequate food supply and stable price during the festive season and that there was no reason for the traders to hike the price of consumer goods. “Despite the government’s assurance, consumers are still being caught by the inadequate supply of goods and higher pries. “Fomca hopes the government acts more sternly against unscrupulous suppliers who take the advantage of the festive season by creating artificial shortages to enable them to jack up the price,” added Mohd Yusof. — BERNAMA MMA ZUL RON