Not fair to put the blame for price increases on retailers

Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Secretary-General, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a Public Rally at Chemor on Sunday, 7th October 1973 at 8 p.m.

Ministry of Trade and Industry should not put the blame for price increases on retailers but should take action to stop price increases at production and importer level

With the spiraling increases in all prices, the Ministry of trade and Industry should sympathise with the difficulties of retailers and not put the blame for price increases on retailers, or encourage the people to have such an attitude.

Several months back, Alliance Ministers were suggesting that consumers boycott retailers because of price increases. Last month, when the rice crisis recurred a second time in a period of four months, the LPN at first blamed the retailers for hoarding and claimed that there was plenty of rice in the country. In actual fact, there was rice shortage and the retailers themselves were unable to get rice supplies – which was later admitted by the LPN.

Although there are some profiteers who try to make a quick profit, the retailers are not the cause of price increases. They are themselves the victim of prices inflation, which have greatly complicated their human relationship problems with their customers, especially in the remote areas.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry should sympathise with the plight of retailers, and take action to remove this wrong impression in the minds of the people. Price increases originate at production and importer level, and the government could and should take action to check and prevent unjustified price increases at source.

If anyone is to take the blame for price increases, it is the local manufacturers and the importers, and not the retailers.

I hope the Ministry of Trade and Industry will henceforth be more conscious of the problems of retailers.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry should also protect local dealers from unfair trade practices by foreign firms. I refer to the new regulation introduced by Guinness Stout Company banning local dealers from selling other competitive products.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry should but stay on the sidelines, but should step in and stop such unhealthy trade practices by a foreign firm.

If the Guinness Stout company continues to be stubborn and refuses to withdraw the regulation, Malaysians should launch a campaign to boycott Guinness Stout as a protest by Malaysians against such unfair trade practices by foreign firms.

Is there labour shortage in Perak?

Before his departure for Tokyo last week, the Minister for Labour, Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam, said that five States in Malaysia face a labour shortage.

The President of the Perak Branch of the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers, Mr. G.S. Machado, said that some Perak industrialists were reconsidering their plans to set up labour-intensive industries in the State.

Is there a labour shortage in Perak and other Malaysian states?

This is actually a ridiculous question, for we all know that over the years, despite the many Five-Year Plans, unemployment in the country has increased by leaps and bounds. From an unemployment rate of 3% in 1960, we have now an unemployment rate exceeding 10%.

What Perak and other Malaysian states are facing is not the problem of ‘labour shortage’, but ‘cheap labour shortage’.

All along, Malaysia has been inviting foreign investors to set up industries here with the promise of cheap, sweated labour. This is why in many industries, workers are paid the fantastically low wage of $1.50 or $2 a day. With this meagre wage, the workers had to meet transport expenses, food and other outlays which virtually swallow up their earnings at such low rates, in a time of rising prices inflation, it is no surprise that workers are quitting – for they find they cannot make ends meet with the pay they get from the industries.

The foreign and local industrialists should stop building their profits from the exploitation of Malaysian workers, but by entering into an equal partnership with the workers through increased efficiency and higher productivity and fair wages.

All workers should be paid a living wage and not $1.50 or $2 a day. Employers should provide transport and housing for workers who had to spend a lot of time and money to report for work.

When workers are given a living wage, the problem of ‘labour shortage’ will immediately vanish.

What Malaysia urgently needs is a minimum wage legislation to protect workers from exploitation. The tripartite national Joint Labour Advisory Council, comprising representatives from the government, employers and trade unions, should seriously study this matter of minimum wage for workers, and introduce legislation in Parliament.