kuala LUMPUR: The government led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is taking various steps to combat the rising prices of goods. This is in the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia – to lend a helping hand to members of our community who need it.

First comes extra assistance to those who grow padi, fruits and vegetables.

The government is injecting another RM62mil for various subsidies and incentives to padi farmers. This is on top of the RM1.5bil already allocated for them under Budget 2022.

For those involved in producing fruits and vegetables, RM200mil in interest-free loans has been earmarked for them. These farmers will also get a six-month pause or moratorium on the repayment of their loans to Agrobank and the government’s microcredit agency Tekun Nasional.

The second area to combat the rising prices of essential goods involves boosting supply of chicken and fish.

This will begin with the importing of 200 to 300 container loads of frozen chicken – a step to be undertaken by the Agriculture and Food Industries Ministry.

“We will flood the local market with cheaper imported chicken so that consumers have more choices,” said the prime minister.

Meanwhile, frozen fish stock under the Q’Fish programme of the National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat) will be released into the local market as an immediate measure to stabilise prices.

To complement the increase of supplies into the domestic market, outflow of some essential goods will be restricted. Thus, Malaysia’s fish export will be suspended temporarily to ensure that more stock is easily available at reasonable prices locally.

“It is important to meet the needs of our people. We do not want them to be burdened with price hikes, especially for wet goods,” said Ismail Sabri.

The rise of essential goods prices was due to accumulated costs at various levels of the supply chain rather than the fault of traders and middlemen.

“It is true that daily essentials are more expensive now (but) traders and wholesalers are not responsible for these price increases. (Rather) I see it as a result of supply chain issues,” said Ismail Sabri in early December.

“Take chicken as an example. Breeders, factories and wholesalers all have their own costs. The price is already high by the time the goods reach the traders,” he told reporters after conducting price checks on essential items at a retail outlet in Putrajaya.

While the main methods chosen to control prices are to increase supply by assisting farmers, raising imports and limiting exports, a third method is being undertaken by the government.

This is to intervene in the retail market, through direct Keluarga Malaysia sale of essential goods to the people, and by closely monitoring prices.

The Keluarga Malaysia sale will offer essential goods at a 20%-50% discount, thus enabling consumers to obtain food supplies far more cheaply than current market prices. This sale will be held in every state twice a month (for three months) starting from Dec 4.

In addition, the government has mobilised officers to monitor daily the prices of goods in 1,500 premises nationwide. The price control scheme of essential goods will also be started earlier for the Christmas season.

Help is also coming to hawkers and petty traders, as RM48.5mil has been allocated to them for a micro financing scheme by Bank Rakyat, which is overseen by the Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry.

Under this scheme, hawkers and small business people will be able to apply for microcredit financing of between RM10,000 and RM50,000 with a repayment period of up to five years, said Ismail Sabri when launching the 2021 Keluarga Malaysia Hawkers and Petty Traders Day in Putrajaya on Dec 3.

“No profit rate will be imposed on the applicants; only a management cost of 1% will be charged,” he said.

This means that these syariah-compliant small loans will be similar to zero-interest commercial loans.

The prime minister said the loans can be used by hawkers and petty traders to boost their working capital, buy equipment or pay salaries, rents and utility bills.

“So, I call on Keluarga Malaysia hawkers and petty traders to take this opportunity to revive and ensure the survival of your businesses,” he said.

On Dec 3, Ismail Sabri also announced the National Night Market Transformation Programme with an allocation of RM25mil. This will be implemented in stages at 50 main night markets nationwide starting next year.

The Night Market Transformation Programme will see a standardisation of night market operations, with the use of tents, aprons and traders’ hats. Night market marshals will also be appointed to ensure that Covid-19 standard operating procedures are followed, thus boosting public confidence to shop there.

At the event, Ismail Sabri also announced an allocation of RM100,000 for the Association of Malay Hawkers and Petty Traders Malaysia.