BARIO: The government has spent a total of RM23.5 million to subsidise consumer goods in Bario since 2009 until now.
This was disclosed by Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK) Datuk Henry Sum Agong, during a press conference here on Saturday.
He was in Bario to officiate at a consumerism dialogue and price standardising programme organised by KPDNKK.
Also present during the press conference were State Legislative Assembly deputy speaker and Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala, KPDNKK secretary general Datuk Seri Jamil Salleh, Sarawak KPDNKK director Datuk Stanley Tan, Miri KPDNKK chief Jo Azmi, Metrology Corporation Malaysia Sdn Bhd (MCM) chief operation officer Ahmad Sholihan as well as MCM adviser Mohd Khalis Kasim.
Henry said the subsidy was mainly to pay for the transportation of selected consumer goods “The subsidy is used to transport sugar, flour, cooking oil, cooking gas as well as petrol and diesel fuel.”
For example, he said, a tank of cooking gas here is now priced at RM26 compared to RM170 before the subsidy programme started. In fact, its subsidised price is even cheaper than in Miri.
He said prices of goods in Bario were high mainly due to transportation costs.
The easiest way to bring consumer goods into Bario is via air but the cost is very high. Furthermore, traders may only bring a limited weight of items on the flights. Thus, traders have no choice but to charge high prices for their goods to cover the transportation cost.
The nearest city to Bario is Miri which is over 400km away and will take about 12 hours by land including through logging roads to reach. This it is not the best mode of transportation especially when it involves perishable goods.
“With the subsidy already put in place, the government is always monitoring it to make sure that traders do not simply hike the prices of these subsidised goods,” Henry said.
He explained that the government could not subsidise more items as this will incur more costs; thus, only vital items are subsidised.
“Furthermore, there are unscrupulous people who take advantage of these subsidised items by buying a lot and taking them across the border.
“This will incur losses not only to the government but also to the targeted group who were meant to enjoy the subsidy,” he disclosed, adding that this situation was hard to prevent even with enforcement officers working around the clock.
Meanwhile, after officiating at the consumerism dialogue and price standardising programme, Henry visited traders around Bario town as well as several KPDNKK point-of-sales (POS).
He also distributed digital weighing scales to selected traders in town.
The digital weighing scales were sponsored by MCM to help the selected traders to change their old weighing scales to new and modern digital scales.