PUTRAJAYA: A national stockpile of essential goods which includes rice and cooking oil will be set up to ensure that prices and supply will be stable at all times.
This is part of a three-pronged government strategy announced by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to soften the impact of rising prices on the cost of living due to escalating oil prices worldwide.
Besides the stockpile, a National Price Council and a National Call Centre with a 24-hour hotline will be established.
“The council will monitor, advise and oversee the government's price policy, competitive market structure and the efficiency of subsidy schemes.
“It will also be tasked to prevent unfair and collusive trade practices affecting supply and prices of essential goods and services,” Najib told a press conference yesterday.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would chair the council and hold the first meeting after he returns from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Najib said the council would also review and evaluate the price control regime to ensure fair prices, depending on domestic and global market and conditions of supply and demand.
It would also monitor, review and recommend measures to rationalise government subsidies and price support activities covering the production and supply, including imports, of all price-controlled items.
The council would study, review and propose possible new laws, economic and fiscal measures as well as other activities which would promote market reform and maintain a steady and sustainable reduction of subsidies and minimise market distortions.
Najib said the council would have an expert advisory committee to be chaired by economist Datuk Dr Kamal Salih.
The council would comprise representatives from non-governmental groups like the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations, MTUC, Cuepacs, Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, national chambers of commerce and industries, and various other groups.
Najib said national warehousing and distribution centres would be set up throughout the country.
He said the 24-hour consumer call centre would enable complaints related to prices and shortage of goods in the country to be received by the council.
He said unemployed graduates would also be hired to provide feedback to the price council on the rising cost of living and prices from all over the country.
Najib said the setting up of the council was not an election strategy but a continuous effort by the Government to keep the inflation rate as low as 2.4%.
“Malaysia’s inflation rate is the lowest in the world and this mirrors the government’s efforts in keeping the prices of essential goods low,” he said.
He said the inflation rate remained low in the country as 30% of the items used to measure inflation were mainly price-controlled food items while the others were heavily subsidised items like fuel. Najib added that the Government would continue to check on smuggling so that subsidised fuel or essential items were not taken out of the country.
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