Thursday, January 14, 2016
There exist a Ministry "Gula & Tepong"
Do not be surprise if we are to tell you that there exist a Ministry that is empowered only to regulate and control the price of sugar and flour.
In the midst of rising prices for local food, transportation, and other daily need in the economic environment of a global downturn, you will be disappointed to know that the Ministry everyone expect to regulate prices in the market is only empowered to regulate and control the prices of sugar and flour only!
This is not to say that the Ministry KPDNKK is not carrying out their duty to address profiteering as per the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering (PCAP) Act 2011. The pressure from media and consumers generally complaining and blaming them for not strict in their enforcement did not allow them to be in a state of slumber.
They are trying their level best within the constraint of the law, limited resources, rampant practices, wide network of offenders, and uncooperative public.
Save for alleged corruption, which are individual in nature, KPDNKK under their new Minister, Dato Seri Hamzah Zainuddin have been working and trying out various efforts and measures. Sometimes it is the case of God command, but the priest are unwilling to adhere.
Again, the power to regulate and control prices is spread out under various Ministries and government agencies like Ministry of Agruculture, EPU, MPOC, etc. and not entirely under KPDNKK.
The long name for KPDNKK or the long version Kementeriaan, Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi Dan Kepenggunaan gives the impression that they have a wide reaching power and solely responsible for monitoring, controlling and enforcing prices on practically every item.
Not only they do not, KPDNKK has it's original establishment role to develop the domestic trade sector. Subsequently, development and monitoring of cooperatives are added to their portfolio.
An important role also is in coordinating the policy, licensing, regulation and safety of the downstream petroleum, petrochemical and gas industry. This blog covered the fuel smuggling activities in the past and was fairly critical of KPDNKK.
As far as domestic trade is concern, KPDNKK is responsible to study and draft policy related to domestic trade, monitor prices of good and undertake enforcement to ensure domestic trade practise are clean and fair.
It involves monitoring wholesale and retail trade, protecting consumers rights, intellectual property, and registration together with monitoring businesses. [Browse for more accurate info in their website here]
The banning of vape was strongly recommended by the Health Ministry and few state Muftis issued fatwa declaring it as haram on personal recommendation of certain doctors. It is heard that KPDNKK was given the responsibility to prepare the policy and regulation with regard to the vape business. It is expected to be put forward to cabinet for approval soon.
The banning of vape issue is not as simplistic as the public debate against it argued. Using the poison substance act to regulate nicotine content in the vape liquid, it would not be fair for the safer and more ligit vape practises. In fairness to all - non-Muslims, even Muslims and legitimate smokers - using vape as the halfway to kick cigarette habit, the solution is to regulate.
Off course, it raises back to the issue of weak implementation and enforcement endemic in Malaysia. In this aspect, the limitation to effective enforcement for the newly established Ministry should be appreciated.
KPDNKK was originally established as Ministry for Domestic Trade in October 1990 and the new name and slightly expanded role was given in June 2009. There is the limitation of manpower, financial, expertise, and system that need be addressed for effective enforcement.
Enforcement needs staff that are exceptionally dedicated, calibre and high integrity to be effective.They cannot be tempted by bribe to look away as allegedly happened on the bauxite mining controversy in Pahang.
At times, the less than effective enforcement cannot be blame entirely on the weakness of government, such as the case with KPDNKK.
One major problem in making enforcement effective lies with consumer attitude itself. There are many cases of supermarket or eatery owner getting charged and penalised heavily, but it does not deter consumers from still coming and giving business. That does not include the problem with consumer indifference and ignorance attitude
In this country, consumer awareness is not strong. Consumer power is non-existence in this country. When wholesaler and retailers were raising chicken indiscriminately, consumers especially Malay consumers are not willing to sacrifice and boycott to teach errant businesses a lesson.
There are occasion of Chinese consumer doing so but several past incidents suggest their action skewed more towards protecting racial business interest than a genuine consumer action.
In an effort to introduce consumerism to the public, KPDNKK had done program like Skuad Pengguna which monitor and report to the authorities whenever profiteering is spotted. The number of consumers involved in this program is believed to be in the hundreds of thousand.
They have initiated a FB called Friends of KPDNKK to disseminate information in which much of their efforts and success have not been reported by the mainstream media. It also serve as a platform for public engagement and getting feedback and complains from consumers. A hip name and less bureaucratic language should make it a hit.
The public, media and NGOs should support this effort by KPDNKK. Only with a mass consumer support could KPDNKK be more effective. At times, penalities and charges does not deter these errands businesses. They can bribe their way out or if need be, pay the fines. Only when it hits their business, will they be wary.
The incidence at Kota Raya is a fine example of KPDNKK playing their role. Contrary to media spinning, perception play, and existence of subversive element, the complainant had made a complain to KPDNKK and won his case in the Consumer Tribunal. All he needed was to get help from the police to make his demand on the errand shop.
Unfortunately, it took a different turn when he involved an NGO, and certain group came to reinforce. The real turn was during one PC when an instigator interrupted and that led to the brawl. Words on the street is the six instigators cum bralers resembled reformasi demontrators or PKR activist.
PPIM was not racial or started the brawl as admitted by MCA. Ali Tinju may seemed threatening but he did nothing. Nevertheless, the bad publicity ended up with the errand shop closed business due to public shying away. Not exactly a fine example of consumerism but it is an exemplary lesson.
One area and it is a gigantic challenge for KPDNKK would be to breakup the cartel of players monopolising the supply chain. It is particularly difficult since these supply chain have established itself for many generations. Nevertheless, some effort need done.
Monopoly and cartel, which at times are all level of importer, wholesaler, distributor and retailers, are protecting their profiteering activities by blocking other players from coming in. Knowing so well no competitor can cut in, seldom a time retailers can confidently tell off bargaining consumers to take it or leave it.
The solution to break-up cartel is necessary. It is for the good of both consumers and for a healthier business condition. Fair competition allows the best to strive. That way all races and individuals will be able to prosper together.
After all, most of this cartel owners are no more casting vote for ruling government. The government lose nothing but government and public gain more by being firm!
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