By Jerry Choong
SHAH ALAM, July 13 — The Federal government ought to have foreseen the possibility of the rising prices of goods and basic necessities even before it occurred, and take the right steps to address the issue, said Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He also criticised them for reacting slowly to the prices, such as forming a committee to deal with the situation months into the issue.
“This is what happens when the leadership does not understand the problems and suffering of the people. A few days before, (former deputy prime minister) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah told me she used to buy papayas, bananas and fruits for around RM15 for a small get-together at home, but now the price has reached RM50.
“This is a high spike but if we ask the Prime Minister, he responds by saying it is normal and is happening in all countries around the world. That may be true but as a leader, how the matter is dealt with is what we are questioning,” Anwar said in an exclusive interview with Media Selangor on July 4.
Noting that the month of May saw the largest increase in food inflation since 2011 at 25 per cent, which has impacted the people’s standard of living, the PKR president drew upon his previous experience serving as a deputy prime minister and finance minister to describe how rising prices could have been gauged.
“A month-and-a-half before the fasting period began we already expected the prices of goods would spike a week before Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
“Back then, we would call a Cabinet committee meeting. I would enquire about the anticipated cost of eggs, chicken, vegetables, and whether there is an AP (approval permit) for those items,” said Anwar, citing his time when he was the deputy prime minister and finance minister.
In those instances, Anwar said steps were taken including importing more eggs and chickens and keeping track of the weekly volume of production, among others, with the goal of stabilising the price of basic necessities.
“As a result, when those steps were put in place, things remained under control despite a rise in the prices of goods. Similarly, we could understand if ministry officers did their jobs to check on shop owners.
“But now, the government goes to the shops, probes them and imposes fines on the traders who are already having a hard time as it is,” he said, adding this is a frequent complaint by traders whenever he goes down on the ground.
One such visit was to Kampung Pandan, where traders complained to Anwar about being bothered as the price of the items is already as such, leaving them no choice but to sell the items as it is.
“Instead their goods were all seized and fines levied. The ones that need to be regulated, in my experience, include the manufacturer. Go check out the chicken production facilities and their refrigerators. Are there hidden chickens?
“Therefore, there must be careful actions followed by a few extra precautions as such. This is my point, the people are perceived as being stupid as if this were the first time it had occurred,” he said.
Anwar noted that such problems recur constantly with every festive season, be it Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the Chinese New Year, and others.
“This is what I mean, the committee in the government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was only formed six more months after the prices began to soar.
“I believe costs have risen dramatically closer to a year. Within six months, it had really gone up and a new Cabinet special committee was established only after three bad months,” he said.
Although the rising prices of basic necessities nationwide are out of the hands of the Selangor state government, Anwar said initiatives were taken to ameliorate the situation.
“I personally visited the Shah Alam Market and observed the state government can help the people. Perhaps not on the same level as the Federal government refrigerator at the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama), but the state government can nevertheless somewhat temper the increase in the prices of basic necessities if it occurs.
“Overall despite their limitations efforts are being made. Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Penang are just a few of the state administrations that have looked into this. We, specifically PKR from Pakatan Harapan (PH) had given the order to find a solution under very constrained circumstances, and the answer is that they can,” he said.
When told by Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Amirudin Shari that the steps to reduce prices on a state level is possible, Anwar said he wanted to personally see it for himself.
“So, I went down and Alhamdulillah (praise to God), measures were taken and prices kept under control. So imagine, this is only one state government. If the entire nation follows suit, the prices can be regulated.
“This is crucial, and why cooperation between the states is important. The Federal government must therefore distribute more chicken or vegetables in several states, utilising Fama’s role to do so,” he said.
Read Part 1 of the interview on Selangorkini HERE