THE Government may reduce prices or do away with controls on essential goods. Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad said the ministry was working to create a more open and competitive trade climate in the country.
He said authorities needed to eliminate problems in the distribution of consumer goods.
“The issue of cost disparity between consumer goods sold in towns and the rural areas must be resolved,” he said in winding-up the motion of thanks on the Royal Address on points relating to his ministry.
Shahrir said the ministry found that distributors and wholesalers liked to work in a “comfort zone” and recoup their investments.
This was opposed to going further by supplying essential goods to rural or hard-to-reach areas, which caused a difference in price and supply.
He also said an audit would be done on the licences of distributors and wholesalers.
Datuk Ibrahim Ali (Independent – Pasir Mas) suggested that agencies handling the distribution of permits and licences for consumer goods be placed under one roof to prevent disparity in prices and availability of the items in the market.
To this, Shahrir said it could not be done because Malaysia needed to comply with certain international regulations such as the Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“However, the issue that we need to look into is improving the retail sector, which is what we did when the ministry launched the subsidised distribution system in several states recently,” Shahrir said.