Attributing high cost of goods only to CP ‘too simplistic’ – Chong
KUCHING: A written reply from the state government to a question on the effect of the abolishment of Cabotage Policy (CP) has refuted the statements made by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg in May.
Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen said the chief minister announced on May 7 that the abolishment of CP would be ‘a good news for consumers’, as headlined by The Borneo Post.
“The chief minister said when the CP was abolished effective June 1, foreign vessels calling in Sarawak would increase; thereby reducing the cost of goods in Sarawak, which should be good news for consumers.
“To attribute the high cost of goods to just CP is taking a too simplistic view of economic issues in Sarawak. And the answer to a question I asked in the last DUN (State Legislative Assembly) sitting supported what I had said before – that the abolishment of CP would not reduce the prices of goods. Even before the abolishment of CP, foreign vessels carrying cargoes were allowed to call at ports in Sarawak,” he said at a press conference held in the state Democratic Action Party (DAP) headquarters here yesterday.
Chong, who is Kota Sentosa assemblyman and also DAP Sarawak chairman, said the reply stated that Sarawak recorded 1,357 foreign vessels calling at ports in the state between June and September last year, versus 1,208 in the same period this year.
“After the abolishment of CP, there was a reduction in the number of foreign vessels carrying cargoes to Sarawak. And the reply also said prices of general goods had not been influenced by that (abolishment of CP) alone.”
Chong then read out an excerpt from the reply: “The price of general goods is influenced by various factors such as cost of shipping, ports handling charges, land transportation, price of fuel, exchange rate, profit margin, market demands and others.”
On this, he remarked: “This answer refutes what the chief minister said in May when he announced the abolishment of CP. Generally, I think the economy is not doing well for Malaysia and Sarawak.”
Chong said the weakening ringgit and expensive port charges were among the factors leading to higher prices of goods.
Making the matter worse, he said the authorities recently hiked the channel maintenance recovery charges, which further increased port charges.
He opined that the state government had to adopt a more holistic economic policy including reviewing the port handling charges, if it was serious about reducing the price of goods in Sarawak.
“They also need to review the general national policy, which will strengthen our economy and the value of the ringgit. For that matter, I think GST (goods and services tax) is also a factor that has resulted in the increase of prices of goods and the reduction of the purchasing power of the people.
“Sarawak, being part of Malaysia, cannot exclude itself from the effect of the national policy,” he added.
To a question, Chong said the recent introduction of channel maintenance recovery fees had increased the port handling charges by 20 per cent.
“I have called for it to be abolished because this adds on to the cost of port handling.”
Chong was accompanied by Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong and his special assistant Dr Kelvin Yii at the press conference.