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[January 21, 2014]
PM: Govt may step in over prices [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) PUTRAJAYA: DATUK Seri Najib Razak has warned of government intervention if the existing price mechanism continues to burden the people.
The prime minister said intervention would be carried out should the current system allow indiscriminate price increase to persist.
The government, said Najib who is also finance minister, had always been sensitive to the people's concern about the high cost of living. Several steps had been taken to address their burden.
"(For instance), I have asked the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry to find ways to lower the prices of food items," said Najib at the Finance Ministry's monthly gathering yesterday.
Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan and Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah were also present.
Early this month, the government introduced a year-long "Jimat Belanja Dapur" campaign that saw the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) lowering the prices of 21 grocery items by up to 20 per cent at pasar tani nationwide.
The National Fishermen's Association of Malaysia (Nekmat) has also agreed to lower prices of fish at all 585 pasar tani around the country.
Najib said he planned to visit the Putrajaya pasar tani this Friday "to check on prices of food items such as fish and vegetables. And, I have been told there will be more people at the pasar tani on Friday.
"If the (existing) price mechanism fails to work properly, government intervention will be carried out so that the people will no longer be burdened with unreasonable prices." The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry had kicked off Op Harga 2.0 on Monday to monitor prices of goods and act on businesses that indiscriminately raise their prices.
The nationwide crackdown on unscrupulous traders involved 1,800 enforcement officers and 1,200 monitoring officers who would carry out checks at wet markets, grocery stores and restaurants.
Other measures taken to help the people include the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M), Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), Menu Rakyat 1Malaysia (MR1M) and Klinik 1Malaysia.
Najib also said the next round of BR1M would be disbursed soon.
Stressing the government's austerity drive was to reduce the nation's deficit and secure a balance budget, he said it was never intended to make the people suffer.
"It is never our intention to burden the people. In fact, I am here before you because of the people. And, all that we have done is for the nation and the people by restructuring our economy." Najib also said countries that refused to restructure their economies would likely face a bleak future, including experiencing almost stagnant economic growth and losing investors' confidence.
"Measures such as subsidy rationalisation are being done in stages and we will still help those who need to be helped.
"The BR1M programme, for instance, is a programme that will help the government to ensure the aid will reach the desired target groups." For Malaysia to gain developed nation status by 2020 and become a high-income nation, Najib said economic restructuring was a must.
"If we want to escape from the middle-income trap, we must reform our economy. Restructuring of the economy does not mean we are experiencing an economic downturn." On his kangkung (water spinach) statement that was ridiculed on social media and sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Najib said he was merely using the water spinach as an example to explain the supply and demand principle.
"I was only giving an example of the (economic) principle. In fact, I do like kangkung and squid," he quipped.
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