By Dave Avran
Those of you familiar with my cyber NGO MARAH will recall that we took a stand on Oct 31 this year against anyone found profiteering from government subsidized cooking oil.
When unscrupulous traders and shopkeepers attempt to profiteer, everyone suffers because of the greed of a few.
So what exactly is the cooking oil subsidy?
It is a government funding scheme to subsidize refineries on a monthly basis to keep prices down for consumers.
As an indicator, in 2015, the government subsidized 85,300 tonnes of cooking oil per month at a cost of RM1.2bil.
Unfortunately subsidies have the undesired effect of attracting smuggling.
The price of cooking oil in Malaysia is double that of Thailand and triple that of Laos, tempting crooked “businessmen” to smuggle 45,000 tonnes out of the country bleeding the government RM540 million yearly in the process.
One of the several reasons for removing the cooking oil subsidy is to stop this smuggling activity.
So you can see why the subsidy for the 1kg pack remains. It effectively relieves the plight of the poor, but the small size of the packs renders them too troublesome to smuggle in large quantities.
The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry was managing the Cooking Oil Stabilization Scheme (COSS) until the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK) took over on Nov 1 this year.
Acting swiftly and aggressively, KPDNKK addressed many weaknesses in the system and currently has the situation well under control.
Given the above, and looking at the subsidy removal from a logical standpoint, the impact on Malaysian household expenditure will be small.
If an average household consumes 5kg of cooking oil a month and each kg were to cost a ringgit more, the additional cost to that household will be RM5.
However, sound logic and reasoning never stopped parties with a disruptive agenda from shooting their mouths.
Leading the charge, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said the elimination of price controls for cooking oil while maintaining the GST will further erode the spending power of lower income families.
The usual suspects joined in the chorus, creating undue attention, rumors of shortage and speculative stockpiling.
Many Malaysians had their kiasu mode on as they completely cleared every bottle of cooking oil from supermarket shelves.
This in turn caused supermarkets to impose a quota of two bottles per customer to ensure adequate supply.
Not to be outdone, the mainstream media joined in the circus too.
The Star came out with a speculative and inaccurate article on the subject.
In fact, I would go on to say the article was downright misleading and led people into panic buying.
Astro Awani was quick to blame KPDNKK by interviewing several unhappy people right after the minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the cooking oil issue was being addressed.
This put the minister in bad light as he appeared to be untruthful. With the benefit of hindsight, Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin has indeed delivered as he promised.
However, the cake must surely go to Sinar Harian for its harsh and unfair article penned by columnist Abdul Jalil Ali titled “Menteri kata OK, Rakyat kata KO” dated Nov 17.
As a veteran writer, Jalil chose to instigate that the distribution of cooking oil in the 1kg packaging caused consumers lots of problem.
Jalil did not substantiate his article with factual data, instead quoting hearsay and “market talk”.
Not surprisingly his article was removed later the same day from Sinar Harian’s website.
All of which brings us back to the subject in question – cooking oil.
Since Sinar Harian’s Jalil now has to eat his words, I would suggest he doesn’t use too much cooking oil to cook his words before he eats them.
Too much cooking oil in daily meal preparation is not healthy, you know.
Remember those parties with a disruptive agenda shooting their mouths that we spoke about earlier?
They are all silent now. Things are under control so no more mileage to milk from this issue lah.