Chong moots using previous PH govt allocation to purchase, subsidise face masks

Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING, March 22: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen calls for the Malaysia government and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) to review the price of 3-ply facemasks.

Chong in a statement today asserted this will not only affect the low income group but the whole of society at large.

“If there is a substantial segment of the community not wearing face masks, it will compromise the effectiveness of those who wear them also.

“Therefore, as the former Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, I call upon the present government and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to cancel the present gazetted price and revert the ceiling price of 3-ply face mask to the previous RM0.80 per piece,” he urged.

Chong claimed that the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government has approved an allocation for KPDNHEP to purchase face masks for distribution.

According to him, they were not in time to implement it because of the fall of the PH government.

“Nevertheless, the fund is there already and the present Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs can just utilise the fund for the purpose approved.

“If the present government doesn’t want to give out face masks for free, it can utilise the fund to subsidise the costs to maintain it at RM0.80 per piece (provided the costs is truly more than RM0.80 per piece).

“All I ask of him is to have the heart for the poorer sector of the community,” he added.

At the same time, Chong also pointed out that before the Covid-19 pandemic, the costs of production for a box of 3-ply face masks could be as low as RM13 per box of 50 (i.e. RM0.26 per piece).

He explained that no matter how high demand has gone up, the costs of production could not have increased by eight times within a short period of one month.

He said furthermore, as more factories are switching to facemask production and aquiring raw material, in two to three months’ time, and the supply will increase to push down the costs of production.

“In case the new Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs still does not realise, the new ceiling price of RM2 per face mask will make it not affordable for many.

“Take for example, a family of five, at normal times, if all were to use face masks when going about their daily routines, such as going to work, schooling, doing grocery shopping etc and that each only use one for a whole day, and that would be RM10 per day just to buy face masks and RM300 per month. It is just not affordable for low income families.

“By setting such a high ceiling price for 3-ply facemask, the government is practically disenfranchising the low income earners their rights to use the 3-ply facemasks,” he added. — DayakDaily