24 March, 2008

Price controls "a joke" !!

Malaysia's price-control system which is designed to suppress the cost of essential goods is "a joke", the new domestic trade minister said according to a report Monday.

Anger over rising prices of food and fuel were a key issue in general elections earlier this month, and one of the factors credited with the ruling coalition's worst performance in its half-century history.

In a bid to win back support, Shahrir Abdul Samad -- a maverick in the United Malays National Organisation which leads the coalition -- was installed as domestic trade and consumer affairs minister last week.

"The whole price control mechanism is a joke," he said.

"If you have price controls just for PR (public relations) purposes, it does not make the government look good, especially when you have price controls but can't control the price."

Shahrir said that for example, the government had set a price ceiling on steel bars 600-700 ringgit (190-220 dollars) below market price.

"But contractors can't buy them at these prices. So what they do is inflate the price with other costs. It becomes a joke and the government gets laughed at."

"Prices go up and yet Malaysian wages don't. So these are all issues the government has to settle," he said.

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