TRADERS operating in mainland Penang are feeling the pinch after the Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) raised the rental charges of their stalls.
The new rates which came into force on Sept 1 last year saw MPSP increasing the rental by 100% for markets and hawker complexes in the Class One category.
The rental for stalls at markets and hawker complexes under Class Two went up by 60%, while Class Three saw a 40% increment and Class Four 20%.
Traders under the Class One category now have to pay between RM60 and RM240, while those in Class Two have to pay between RM48 and RM190.
Class Three rates are between RM40 and RM170 while Class Four are between RM35 and RM144.
Nine markets and five hawker complexes located in rural areas, however, are eligible for lower rates due to their location and lack of tenants.
Food and beverage stall owner Abdul Jaafar, 62, said the rental fee they were paying now was not appropriate.
The trader, who is operating at the MPSP Food Complex in Mak Mandin, said the cost of essential items used in preparing their dishes and drinks had gone up as well, and the increased rental was an additional burden for them.
“I am paying RM168 now for a stall. I used to pay RM120 before the rental hike, which means I am paying RM48 more per stall,” said the owner of two stalls.
Abdul said he had to increase his food and drink prices by 10 sen to 20 sen to cope with the situation.
Another trader Siti Azizah Yaakob, 58, said she could not increase her beverage prices as her customers were regulars.
“I do not have a lot of customers, so I am afraid that if I increase the prices, my regular customers might stop coming to my place,” said Siti Azizah, who is also running a beverage stall at the same complex.
“My average profit a day is only about RM50 and I operate during weekdays only. I also need to pay my helper, and the increase in rental now is a burden,” she said.
Taman Cempaka Sari MCA branch chairman David Chua Teik Siang said that instead of helping the traders, the state government was giving them more problems.
“These traders are in the lower income group and when the rental rates go up, they don’t obtain much profit from their small businesses.
“The state government and MPSP should look into ways to help them rather than give them a more difficult time,” he said when contacted.
Chua added that the state government should put on hold the rental hike for now as the Goods and Services Tax would be implemented in April.
“At least, the Federal Government is trying to help the people by increasing the amount of Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia,” he added.
Sharing the sentiment was Consumer Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris, who said the traders’ welfare should be taken into consideration before the rates were increased.
“If the rental is increased, it will deflect back to the consumers as the traders need to increase their food or drink prices to continue their businesses.
“The traders need to look after other expenses besides paying the rental, thus it will be an extra burden for them to run their small businesses,” he said when contacted.
It was reported that MPSP president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said the increase of rental rates would not only help the council recover from its financial struggle but also allow it to build new facilities for the traders.
She explained that it was the third time the council was imposing the hike after the first one in 1967 and the second in 1992.
This rental hike affects traders in 29 markets and 65 hawker complexes under the MPSP.