Fomca tells policymakers to ‘turun padang’ to see how people are reeling from rising prices

The government has been urged to ‘turun padang’ (go to the ground) and speak to people to better understand how the rakyat are reeling from the rising cost of living.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) deputy president Datuk Paul Selvaraj said there is a real concern right now as people are feeling the impact of rising prices, across the board.

“It is partially due to the removal of the diesel subsidy, and also the value of our ringgit. But the general cost of living has increased at every level,” said Selvaraj.

“Whether it’s cooked food, raw vegetables, construction materials, property prices … everything is going up, and these are grouses from consumers,” he said.

The reality on the ground, Selvaraj said, is that Malaysians are being burdened by the rising cost of goods.

“Each time you go out, you see the price of your roti canai, Nescafe, and even chicken rice, increasing. This is happening even at stalls, not just restaurants,” said Selvaraj.

He said often, there appeared to be a huge gap between what is said by policymakers and what was happening on the ground.

“It’s like they are living on a different planet. They must go to the ground. Only then can they (policymakers) know if their views on the cost of living are realistic.”

Selvaraj said while the removal of subsidies is good, as it only allows those deserving to benefit, he said the government must ensure that people were able to cope.

The government had said that the RM4 billion in savings from the diesel rationalisation exercise, would be used to fund public transport programmes and give out cash assistance.

“On principle, we agree to the rationalisation plan. But we must look at what can be done to help the low, and middle-income segments of society to alleviate their suffering.

“The fuel rationalisation plan must be supported by a comprehensive social protection programme. If not, the people, especially the lower, and middle income, are going to suffer terribly.”

He said Malaysia’s new diesel rationalisation plan, which came into effect on June 10, had impacted consumers, both directly and indirectly.

“This must be the government’s primary concern. While some may still qualify for diesel subsidies, we must not forget that diesel is also used as an input in food production. This is where the price is not regulated, and this is where people are being impacted,” said Selvaraj.

“We must ask ourselves if the occasional cash aid offered by the government is enough to take care of one’s family, basic healthcare, and children’s education. Are we also ensuring that salaries are enough to cope with the rising cost of living?”

On whether the 3 sen reduction in egg prices, as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on June 17, would help cushion the impact of the rising cost of living, Selvaraj said such announcements must be more detailed.

“Are such promises (the reduction in the price of eggs) for one week, one month, one year? It (the prices) would also depend on supply. If supply drops and there are no eggs in the market, (any price reduction) will be irrelevant,” he said.

He added measures to help people cope with the rising costs must be long-term, and done holistically.

“We need more comprehensive policies. What are we doing to ensure that our food production is self-sustainable? If the cost of our food imports increases, of course, all basic necessities are going to go up,” he said.

“It is the same with housing. The government must find out how the rising fuel costs will impact property prices.”

Acknowledging that while some price increases may be due to profiteering, Selvaraj cautioned it was crucial for the government to closely monitor the direct and indirect impact of removing diesel subsidies on the general public.

“What the people need right now are real measures to bring prices of goods down,” he said.