Many perceived the appointment of Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin as Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK) minister on July 29, 2016, would not veer far from his predecessor Datuk Seri Hasan Malek.
Hasan was of course, previously known for some of his statements that went viral. Among them, during the rise of poultry prices, he urged the public to avoid eating chicken if the prices were too high; he also claimed the sugar and flour hike was good for the welfare of the people. His statement also angered the public when he said a 15 per cent hike in electricity tariffs would not have any effect on them.
Such words coming from a minister would definitely fuel more anger, making the public loathe the government. It only creates a negative perception, indirectly tainting the image of the government as a party responsible for protecting the interests of the people and contributing to the enhancement of the nation’s economy.
The pressure was definitely intense for Hamzah who took over the position from his predecessor after all the negative perception on the ministry. The onus was on him, whether or not he would bring about the same “attitude” after helming the position.
As stated on the KPDNKK official website, the ministry “is moving towards becoming a national premier Ministry as a ‘Caring Ministry”. It is guided by its vision that is ‘Domestic Trade As The Backbone To A High Income Economy’”.
While the three missions of the ministry are:
i. Accelerate main domestic sectors that are viable, competitive and sustainable;
ii. Domestic economy grounded by fair competition and innovation; and
iii. Develop a trade ecosystem based on ethics and protection of consumer’s interest.
Upon his takeover, Hamzah stressed his focus was to improve the living standards of Malaysians, as well as overcome the high cost of living and the increase in price of goods.
Among the immediate measures he took was conducting meetings with traders’ associations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and consumer associations to get their views and feedback on the cost of living and consumer issues. He wanted to hear opinions and complaints directly from consumer representatives and also listen to NGOs and traders’ perspectives on the price of goods and cost of living.
According to him, all views and suggestions from stakeholders would be brought to the attention of the high-level committee on the issue of the cost of living, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“The biggest challenge that must be addressed by the ministry is a negative perception of the public, especially from the social media,” he said, adding that the ministry is determined to take the leading role in dealing with consumerism.
On his recent visit to Kelantan and Sungai Golok, in the border town of Rantau Panjang in the Narathiwat Province, Southern Thailand on April 16, 2016, Hamzah stated his purpose was to survey the prices of goods mainly for construction like steel, wood, cement, sand and bricks.
The writer would personally like to praise the critical thinking and enthusiasm displayed by the minister in efforts to tackle the high cost of living for Malaysians. And in addition to the meetings that he has held, he has also initiated ground visits to survey and compare the prices of goods to help deal with the rising cost of living.
He said, if construction costs can be lowered, it will lower the cost of building houses, which simultaneously lowers the price of houses. Furthermore, housing loans can be reduced, and this guarantees the public a higher monthly disposable income. His focus is for the government to have more control over the price of houses, which are currently determined by the developers, as property prices in Malaysia are now too high.
During his visit to Sungai Golok, Hamzah also stopped by a Thai market where he found a wide range of daily necessities such as soap, sauces, milk, among others, were packed in smaller packaging from those sold in Malaysia . This meant, if goods were packed in smaller packaging, they could be sold at a cheaper price.
Using that as an exemplary method to cut costs, he intends to discuss this with the producers and manufacturers of retail goods to package their products in smaller packaging, and for them to be sold at a more affordable price, for the benefit of all consumers.
In a conversation with the minister at a dinner, quoting a Bernama report on September 17, 2014, regarding excessive food wastage in Malaysia, he informed Malaysians waste up to 8,000 tonnes or 8 million kilogrammes of food a day, enough to feed six million people. He raised this concern in a time when people were complaining about the rising cost of living, when the daily amount of food wastage in our country is very high. Without denying the government’s role in this, he also stressed the wasteful attitude among the public must be curbed.
Based on the report, Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation’s chief executive officer, Datuk Ab Rahim Md Noor said the solid waste management cost, including for discarded food, ran into billions of ringgit. The percentage composition of food waste among the solid waste, is the highest at 45 per cent and increased by 15 to 20 per cent during the festive seasons.
Now, imagine how our country would be if there was no food wastage. The nation will most certainly be able to overcome poverty and feed the poor, moreover, the money spent to manage solid waste can actually be channeled productively to boost our nation’s economy.
What the writer personally loves about this minister is his very proactive ways and ability to think critically. He is meticulous and analytical, as well as a fast thinker and a great problem solver. Furthermore, he views things from all aspects and is truly committed to improve the living standards in the country. He believes that reducing the cost of living is something very important and it starts with controlling the prices of goods that are rapidly increasing.
There is no doubt, that all this can be attributed to his background as a successful businessman. This change certainly does not only benefit the ministry but also proves the ministry’s effectiveness in functioning for the people.
Even the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) who paid a courtesy call to his office on November 4, 2015, expressed hope that the minister’s leadership will help drive consumers towards becoming wiser as well as the ministry towards empowering the rights of consumers.
Within a short period of two days and amidst the writer’s hectic work schedule, getting to know the minister has only elevated the amount of respect the writer has for him. The one thing that is clear, is that this man sure knows what he is doing. And the writer has no doubt that with the support of the ministry’s staff and under his leadership, KPDNKK will be more effective in addressing important issues, in line with its motto, “Thriving Trade Blessed Consumers”.
Chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Kelantan Branch