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Tuesday October 18, 2011

Local traders in Brickfields cry foul

MANY traders at the Deepavali Bazaar in Brickfields are sub-letting their lots to foreigners who sell their goods at 50% less than other stalls, thus depriving the low-income group from making a living.

Genuine traders are lamenting that the foreign traders are killing their business by charging low prices for their goods.

M. Parameswary, who has been operating a stall in Brickfields for the past eight years, said the foreigners were selling the same house coats and Punjabi suits like hers but charging 50% less.

“How can I compete with that price?’’ she asked.

No hustle and bustle: Local traders are finding it difficult to make a living due the foreign traders who have taken up lots at the Deepavali Bazaar in Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Brickfields.

“It is not fair to us as we get our goods from a middleman and hence we are not able to charge such low rates,’’ she said.

Parameswary said during the Deepavali period she could easily make at least RM35,000 during the first two weeks,

She said this year business had been so bad that she considered herself lucky if she was able to make RM3,000.

Parameswary’s woes were echoed by S. Gunaseelan who said every year more and more lots were being rented to outsiders who offered similar goods at much lower prices.

“Genuine businessmen like me who just want to earn some extra cash are losing out to the foreign traders. I am not against competition but the foreigners are killing us,’’ said the 45-year-old trader.

A single mother, Amuthavali Arumugam, said she was disappointed that she was not able to secure a lot this year as everything had been taken up.

“I was told that there were some people who are willing to sub-let their lots for RM3,000 but I could not afford that,’’ she said.

A trader, who wished to be identified as Nala, said there were many individuals who applied for lots from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) via the non-governmental organisation (NGO) quota and had in turn sub-let their lots to foreigners for double and even triple the price they had paid.

“Some of these lots were sub-let for as high as between RM3,000 to RM5,000 per lot depending on the location,’’ Nala said, adding that the lot prices can go as high as RM9,000 in the heart of Little India.

Long stretch: The stalls set up for the Deepavali Bazaar.

The DBKL charges between RM200 and RM600 depending on the size of the lot.

“This practice of sub-letting the lots is not fair as it deprives genuine traders from doing business. Secondly, the concept of a bazaar during festive seasons is to provide poor people a chance to make some money but the traders are not benefiting from it,’’ added Nala.

Malaysia-India Chamber of Commerce president Datuk R. Kanagaraja said the bazaar concept was like a subsidy from the government to help genuine small and medium enterprises to do business.

“By right it should be given to deserving individuals, who in turn have to go through a vetting process to see if he or she is eligible,’’ he said.

“DBKL gives out the lots to certain groups under the NGO quota and they in turn rent the lots to individuals.”

Malaysian Association Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Datuk K.K. Eswaran blamed the traders for abusing the government’s goodwill in providing a chance for petty traders and low-income earners to earn some money.

Wide variety: A stall selling clothing is crowded with shoppers. The trader here is a foreigner (in blue striped T-shirt).

“It is the locals who are sub-letting their lots for a higher price to foreigners. This is not a government problem but one created by the locals and it is not just happening in Brickfields but in Masjid India as well,’’ Eswaran said.

He said traders operating the stalls should display their licences prominently.

City Hall has provided 561 stalls under the NGO quota for traders to do business in Brickfields this year. Out of that number, 225 lots were allocated to the Brickfields Business Community Society, 170 to the Brickfields Petty Traders Association while the Indian Petty Traders Association KL/PJ received 150 and Monorail 16.

Many feel this system does not guarantee the right people get the lots. They said the system is open to abuse and is being exploited by middlemen who sub-let the lots for more. Some individuals have even gone as far as advertising their lots for rent on Facebook at RM3,000 per stall.

Many have no problems paying the hefty sum, especially foreigners, as they can easily earn as much as RM50,000 during the Deepavali period.

All laid out: More foreign traders selling Deepavali delicacies in Brickfields.

StarMetro visited the Deepavali bazaar during the weekend and discovered that while the DBKL licence displayed by some of the stalls showed the details and picture of a particular individual, the stalls, however, were run by a different person and many were not local traders.

Brickfields Petty Traders Association president Gobal Rajee said he was aware of stalls being rented to foreigners but many were joint ventures with local residents.

“The local residents take goods on consignment from the supplier who are foreigners and it is natural for the business partners to be there as well,’’ he said.

Gobal said only about 5% of the stalls were sub-let to foreigners.

“In most cases the husbands take the lots and the wife runs the stall. Nearing Deepavali the husbands will help out their wives at the stalls,’’ he said.

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