By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Sept 14: The question of why the prices of goods, especially food and drinks, don’t drop when the price of fuel decreases baffles the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, says its Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi.
He pointed out that he could rationalise that prices of goods, especially food and drinks in coffeeshops, would naturally increase if the price of fuel increases, but the prices of these goods would not decrease if the price of fuel decreases.
“Well, that is something that we also want to understand (as) it baffles us. Always, over the years when there was an increase in the price of petrol, there was a clamour, especially among coffeeshop owners, who say that they need to increase prices of drinks.
“But as you pointed out, when the price of petrol came down a lot recently, the prices of drinks in coffeeshops did not come down.
“So, there you are, I think, it is obvious that to put the entire blame on the price of fuel as the cause of the increase in the prices of all other goods, may not be true,” Nanta told reporters after a dialogue session with the Sarawak Federation of Chinese Associations (SFCA) and Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sarawak (ACCCIS) at the SFCA headquarters here today.
He said among the issues raised by SFCA and ACCCIS was to seek ways on how to reduce the prices of goods in Sarawak which tends to be higher compared to West Malaysia due mainly to logistics and transport.
“This (issue) is nothing new. This has been the issue all these years. Now, they asked about it and what the government will do to mitigate this burden. Well, apart from the government providing subsidies, it would be difficult for the government to reduce the cost of transportation and logistics aspects because in term of costs like that, (the expense) is quite high and I don’t see how the government can provide such subsidies.
“Perhaps there are other ways the government can assist industry players here by way of concessions in other aspects to reduce the cost of doing business here. That perhaps we can look at and recommend to the government,” he said.
On the cabotage policy, Nanta said even though it has been relaxed, it has not helped to reduce the cost of goods in Sarawak.
“After it was relaxed after some years ago, people are still complaining about higher cost now. So, then we have to look at whether the cabotage policy is the only factor or not (behind the cost). (But) obviously not even when the prices of fuel came down recently, the transportation cost did not came down. And the prices (of goods) on the shelves did not come down too
“From there you can see that it is directly related to cost of transportation,” he stressed.
On the issue of sugar import permits, Nanta said approval would depend on the application and be on a case-to-case basis.
Meanwhile, Nanta said the dialogue today was held to help to ensure there would be ease of doing business among business players.
“We are here to provide the avenue for the Sarawak business community to highlight their needs which we will forward to the cabinet,” he added. — DayakDaily