Monitor cartels that cause price hikes in goods

by TMR / pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

SEMPORNA MP Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal (picture) said that the government should monitor the “cartels” involved in the supply chain of goods that lead to the price hike nationwide.

Shafie said the price of goods will increase if there are middlemen, or what he described as a cartel, controlling the supply chain.

To curb this, he recommended for the government to intervene, as he had done previously, during his stint as the Trade and Consumer Affairs minister.

“In 2005, when I was the minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, I asked the Malaysian Armed Forces to distribute goods such as rice, flour and sugar directly to the rural and inland population, especially in the states of Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

This is to curb any act of manipulation of supply by distributors or middlemen, and to lower the price of goods in those states,” he said.

Apart from effective enforcement actions, the government also needs to conduct more governance and consultation with stakeholders, Shafie added.

“For example, retailers were also affected by the pandemic that hit the country when the rents of their premises also increased. These traders have to pass on the cost to consumers by raising prices. This matter should be refined so that appropriate assistance can be channelled to the affected traders. This also helps in reducing the cost and price of goods,” the Parti Warisan president said.

“I am also of the view that anyone or any party found controlling or manipulating the prices of these necessities can be taken to task under Section 4 of the Competition Act 2010 (Act 712). This section prohibits any form of an alliance of an anti-competitive nature. The application of competition laws can also stabilise market prices and has been used by most countries, especially when countries are severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak,” he added.

Shafie highlighted that in October 2020, the European Union imposed a fine of €31.6 million (RM155.14 million) on several vegetable producers for jointly committing cartel offences to raise vegetable prices in the European market.

“These high enforcement actions and fines provide a form of reminder to all manufacturers and retailers of food and goods to always comply with anti-competition laws. It can also prevent any form of manipulation that could disrupt price stability,” said Shafie.

The 63-year-old leader noted that the inflation rate assessed through consumer purchasing power has increased by 16.7% over the past 10 years.

“This is a worrying trend. Therefore, action needs to be taken immediately and effectively so that inflation can be controlled accordingly. The government should continue to work to strengthen the purchasing power of the people in obtaining food and daily necessities,” he said.