The government must introduce substantial policies to address bread-and-butter issues, say consumer groups.
Paul Selva Raj, vice-president of ERA Consumer Malaysia, said that there were several key issues which the government needed to focus on first. Topping the list is food security.
“When we conduct surveys in the urban areas, people’s top three concerns are always food security, transport and safety,” he said.
He said that although Malaysia is not in the midst of a food crisis, escalating food prices is a major problem for consumers, and suggested a two-pronged approach to the problem.
Firstly, Paul said, the government must increase research and development for sustainable farming, and secondly, bring back policies that will help stabilise food prices in the market.
“We are importing all kinds of food and we depend quite a bit on the international food market. We need to focus on a viable farming industry instead.
“We need sustainable R&D projects, and also policies like setting up ‘pasar tani’ where both producers and consumers set competitive price for the goods,” he said.
The pasar tani project was initiated in the late 1980s where producers market their goods directly to consumers without the intervention of middle men.
Paul also said that public transportat was another major concern. “The government has to think beyond the Klang Valley.”
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) president, Marimuthu Nadason, agreed with Paul.
“When I go to Slim River, Bidor or Taiping [Perak], I hardly see local buses. The focus is too much on the Klang Valley.
“Cars are not cheap anymore and the government must think about easing the people’s burden beyond the Klang Valley,” he said.
“The government also needs to focus on safety issues and introduce concrete security measures to safeguard the people’s welfare,” he said.
Nadzim Johan Johar of Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) said that people did not feel safe anymore.
“It may not be as bad as other places but people don’t feel safe, especially at certain hours,” he said, adding that the government has to address this pressing concern in the budget.
While Nadzim felt certain there will be many handouts in the budget, he says the government must make sure that the mechanism to disperse the handouts is efficient.
“The government can say and give out lots of things but what is important is it reaches ordinary Malaysians. The delivery mechanism is not smooth.
“Take, BR1M: the cash dispersed did not reach the rightful person… you hear cases such as this,” he said.
“Another example is issuing licences to hawkers. Most people have to wait for a couple of months before they have the licences with them.
“In the meantime, if they need assistance from government agencies such as Tabung Economi Kumpulan Usaha Niaga, they can’t as they need proof in the form of the licence.
“For the benefits announced in the budget to reach the people is a lengthy process, so the government needs to make the process smoother,” he said.
The consumer activists were responding to calls made by the government for feedback for the 2013 budget which Prime Minister and Finance Minister Najib Tun Razak will table on Sept 28.