Govt takes effective measures to tackle living costs issues

KUALA LUMPUR: Issues related to the cost of living, pricing and shortage of essential goods, along with targeted subsidies, have been prominent on this year's agenda, with the government implementing various effective measures to address these concerns.

The crisis involving packet cooking oil, eggs, and rice earlier this year prompted public concern, as it involved essential commodities, leading to a degree of panic.

The most significant concern revolved around the scarcity of local white rice (BPT), driven by consumers shifting from imported white rice (BPI) due to a sudden price surge following India's decision to halt exports of the raw material.

In a proactive response, the government announced four additional intervention measures in September. These included negotiating with 157 commercial factories to allocate 20 per cent of their rice production to the government for centralised management and distribution, along with the launch of Operation BPT.

To address the scarcity, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security urged the Farmers' Organisation Board (LPP) and the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (Fama) to distribute local rice to the public.

For Sabah and Sarawak, the government agreed to provide a subsidy of RM950 per tonne for BPI starting from October 5, allowing it to be retailed at RM31 for every 10kg.

The year 2023 also saw the government initiate a phased approach to targeted subsidies, ending subsidies and price controls for chicken effective Nov 1, while maintaining the subsidy mechanism for Grade A, B, and C eggs.

The initiative targeted the reduction of subsidy leakage to foreigners and high-income groups, as the government had shouldered RM3.8bil for egg and chicken subsidies since February 2022.

Contrary to concerns about possible price increases, a survey revealed an ironic outcome - most traders lowered chicken prices by 10 to 20 per cent, offering relief to the public.

In June, the government announced the adjustment of electricity tariffs through the Imbalance Cost Pass Through (ICPT) mechanism in the Peninsula for the period July 1 to Dec 31, 2023.

The adjustment in electricity tariffs imposed a surcharge of 10 cents/kWh on domestic consumers using over 1,500 kWh or RM708 per month, affecting 99 per cent of peninsula consumers and incurring an electricity subsidy cost of RM5.2bil.

Targeted subsidy measures, discussed during the National Action Council on the Cost of Living (NACCOL) meeting, contributed to government savings, enhancing more efficient distribution in 2023.

Initiatives like the Payung Rahmah programme, encompassing Rahmah Sales, Basket, Menu, Broadband Package, Special Menu Discount Card, and Basic Contribution (SARA), showcased the government's commitment to the people's well-being.

In 2023, nearly RM8 billion was allocated for the 2023 Rahmah Cash Contribution (STR), benefiting almost 60 per cent of Malaysia's adult population.

Over 210,000 hardcore poverty recipients identified by e-Kasih data received a SARA contribution of RM600, addressing basic food needs and exemplifying the government's commitment to assisting low-income individuals with living expenses.

In addition, the People's Income Initiative (IPR), aimed at uplifting the income of the hardcore poor and B40 groups, positively impacted 4,100 households as of November.- Bernama

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