Villagers in some parts of Kedah have to travel 70km to Alor Setar to buy cooking oil. It is consumers, especially those in smaller towns and rural areas that are affected the most when the government rationalises subsidies for essential goods.
Housewife Ninpa Simuak, 45, could not find supply for 5kg or 3kg cooking oil at sundry shops in Lubuk Merbau,Padang Terap, which is 49.5km from the state’s capital via the North-South Expressway.
“Since a week ago, shops in Lubuk Merbau have limited stock of cooking oil. The traders claimed they did not get stocks from suppliers thus why we had to come here to buy cooking oil,” was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying.
Another housewife Natrah Mat, 42, said bottled cooking oil is out of stock in Guar Chempedak since Deepavali. “All stores in Guar Chempedak only sell the 1kg polybag cooking oil but since I only use the bottled cooking oil, I had to come here in search of the supply,” she said.
The newspaper reported Kedah Consumers Association (Cake) president Datuk Yusuf Ismail as saying that he did not discount the possibility that the cooking oil shortage in the state could be due to hoarding by suppliers.
A survey at several supermarkets and sundry shops showed that certain brand of cooking oil, in 5kg and 3kg, were unavailable while the supply of 1kg polybag cooking oil is limited, he added.
“We believe that the stock will be available in a few days once the retailers completed price adjustment for the bottled cooking oil following the removal of its subsidy,” the newspaper reported Yusof as saying.
He added that apart from rural areas, the shortage was also reported in major towns including Sungai Petani, Langkawi and even Alor Star.
The government has been subsidising and controls prices on many of essential items such as cooking oil, petrol, flour, bread, rice and others to keep the cost of living low for years. However, the subsidy bill has proven to be no longer sustainable in the longer term.
While such subsidies are a luxury to those who can afford a certain lifestyle, they are a much-needed necessity for households whose disposable incomes are too small to absorb the hike in prices.
The government has a moral obligation to extend state assistance to the group most burdened with escalating cost of living.
Since it is taking away such assistance by rationalising subsidies, the least it could do is to ensure that poor consumers are not exploited by retailers or suppliers whenever a removal or reduction of subsidy is announced.
There are inadequate pre-emptive measures taken to prevent hoarding and price jacking before the subsidy rationalisation kicked in.
Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin announced, effective Nov 1, all bottled cooking oil will follow market price but subsidy continue to be in place and limited to those packed in 1kg polybags.
Two days after that, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the ministry should look into the proposal to implement a price determination mechanism for cooking oil. Shouldn’t that be in place first?
Source : The Heat Malaysia Online