This morning, my fantastic multiracial DAP Batu Kitang Team and I were having a walkabout to distribute nearly 400 packets of free face masks in view with the mandatory masking policy in public places that came into force from 1st August until 14th August.
The free face masks were distributed to the local hawkers and visitors at 3rd Mile Maong Bazaar under Batu Kitang state constituency. Apart from that, we also distributed 400 COVID-19 leaflets and DAP flyers to keep raising public awareness.
With the mandatory use of face masks in public places, I’ve received a lot of complaints among the local hawkers and visitors that the government did not take necessary action to lower the price ceiling for face masks. Many said that at least the Pakatan Harapan (PH) through the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) managed to lower the price ceiling for 3-ply face masks.
When PH was still in the government, the price ceiling for 3-ply face masks was only RM0.80 per piece (retail price). That time, KPDNHEP was led by Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail and Chong Chieng Jen.
Unfortunately, when Pakatan Harapan government collapsed and was taken over by GPS, PAS, UMNO and BERSATU, the price ceiling for 3-ply face masks had increased to RM1.50. That itself was a mistake.
Although, when the new Minister (from Sarawak) recently announced in Parliament that the price ceiling will be lowered to RM1.20 per piece with effect from 15th August 2020, the proposed price ceiling is still too high and not affordable to many. This is because the proposed price ceiling is 50% higher than when PH was the government.
The high price ceiling will expose the consumers to exploitation by the traders, especially given now that the government has made it mandatory to use face masks in public places.
Let’s take a simple calculation. Imagine a family of 6, both working husband and wife and 4 school-going children. If they had to spend at least RM1.50 per piece of face mask per day for each family members, that would bring a total of RM9.00 per day. If in a month, they need to go out at least 6 times a week, that would bring about 24 days a month. That adds up To RM216 per month of additional household expenses.
To the majority of Sarawakians earning a below-average income and falls under the B40 category, it is undoubtedly a heavy burden. What more to say for those who are living from hand to mouth, this is definitely a heavy burden to the low-income families. In a worse scenario, if they fail to comply, they will be imposed with RM1,000 fine per person.
Since June, the global supply of facemasks had adjusted sufficiently to cater to the increasing demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the costs for production for facemasks have normalized to the pre-COVID time, and the previous price ceiling of RM0.80 per piece of 3-ply facemasks can give traders very comfortable profit margins to operate.
Even though the costs of production for facemasks have lowered tremendously to pre-COVID-19 times, with the government setting the price ceiling of RM1.20 per piece, it gives the impression that RM1.20 is a reasonable retail price notwithstanding the huge profit margin with this price. This price ceiling is detrimental to the interest of consumers in general.
We continue to take note of the concerns raised and do our best for the betterment of the Sarawakians.
08 August 2020
Abdul Aziz Isa
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen
DAP Batu Kitang Chairman
DAPSY Kuching Vice-Chief