It is common knowledge that the transportation of goods from one point to another involves cost, and the further between the two points, the higher the cost of logistics.
Bearing this in mind, it is only a rational deduction that goods in rural areas are generally more expensive than those in urban centres. For instance, just between Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, there is already a disparity in terms of the prices of goods.
And imagine Sarawak has a size of 124,450 square kilometres, and there are 6,521 rural settlements, according to the Sarawak Public Works Department March statistics. Worst, the rural population does not concentrate in a few locations. Rather, they are scattered across the whole of Sarawak, in every nook and corner.
So for anyone who is sensible and takes into consideration the distance and transportation costs between cities and towns, especially rural settlements in the interior of Sarawak, one would know that prices of goods are higher in the rural areas.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) takes note of the disparity of goods prices between urban and rural localities. Yearly, a huge sum is allocated to Sarawak to subsidise essential goods.
In 2009, the Federal government introduced a programme called Program Penyeragaman Harga (PPH) or Price Standardisation Programme and Community Drumming Programme, where seven items, namely Petrol RON95 and Diesel (these two are also under the Community Drumming Programme since the delivery of these items are done in drums), LPG 14kg and four subsidised and controlled essentials including white rice, refined sugar, general purpose flour and 1kg Polibeg Cooking Oil are delivered by the appointed transporters from the distribution centre in the city to the selected rural areas.
“Under the Price Standardisation Programme, the government pays the transportation cost and the handling cost of the transporters to deliver to the appointed Point-of-Sales (similar to grocery stores) and to ensure those seven items are sold in rural areas at the same price sold in the city,” said KPDNHEP Sarawak Director Matthew Barin.
He further explained to DayakDaily that the programme is specially designed to ensure that the people in rural areas have access to the selected essentials, especially essentials under the category of controlled and subsidised goods.
“With the subsidies, rural folks who live hundreds of kilometres away from cities will not be burdened with the cost of transportation and handling,” said Matthew.
In general, it is also the attempt of the ministry to lessen the burden of the cost of living for rural folks.
“Without the subsidy programme, residents living in rural areas have to pay higher prices to obtain essential goods compared to residents living in urban areas or cities due to the higher transportation and handling costs,” said Matthew.
That is why the caretaker Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi had called for more allocation in 2023 for the Community Drumming Programme for rural areas.
For the year 2022, RM123 million had been allocated for the Price Standardisation Programme.
“For 2023, it has yet to be allocated as Budget 2023 has not been passed yet. However, we expect the amount allocated to be not less than what was allocated this year,” said Matthew.
Apart from the Price Standardisation Programme and Community Drumming Programme, the Federal government has also come up with other subsidy programmes which benefit the whole nation, including rural folks, such as cash handouts like BRIM, BSH and BKM, Malaysia Foodbank Programme and Skim Harga Kawalan (Price Control Scheme) on whole chickens, eggs and bottled pure cooking oil. — DayakDaily