One year on, Saifuddin rates his performance as minister 6.5/10

Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution rates his performance as Cabinet minister at 6.5 out of 10. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution rates his performance as Cabinet minister at 6.5 out of 10. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

PUTRAJAYA, April 25 ― Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution has rated himself slightly above average at 6.5 out of 10 for his overall achievements as a member of the Cabinet in the past year.

At a press conference to mark the first anniversary of the Pakatan Harapan government, the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumer Affairs Minister said he believed that 6.5 was a fair assessment given that there were still agendas on his plate that he has not delivered.

However, when asked regarding his three greatest achievements, the PKR minister said his favourites were the food bank initiative, stabilising fuel prices and preparing a supply chain analysis for the National Economic Action Council.

Eyes on profiteering

The supply chain analysis seeks to identify where the greatest profiteering occurs in the nation's supply chain.

For the time being, his ministry has identified 10 consumer items based on Bank Negara Malaysia's (BNM) recommendations but has plans to expand the list.

The study has found that different items have different areas where the profiteers make their margin, with some making excessive profits at wholesaler level while others hitting the big bucks at the importers’ level.

“From our analysis of the 10 items we know that there are importers who sell to wholesalers and make a 130 per cent profit margin. We do have anti-profiteering laws (to be utilised against the profiteers), so we will not introduce a new law to curb this behaviour.

“This list will help us to find out where most of the profiteering occurs in the supply chain. We have also uncovered from the 10 items that there are also wholesalers who make a 60 to 70 per cent profit margin on the distributors,” said Saifuddin.

Among the 10 items being studied by the government are eggs, flour, beef, chicken, onions and some vegetables among others.

The current goal of the analysis is to assist Putrajaya in narrowing down those who profiteer from the supply chain.

Saifuddin expects the list to be completed in September and did not deny that he will release the list to the public in the future.

“We have submitted the preliminary report to the Cabinet and it consists of 10 consumer items based on Bank Negara Malaysia's recommendation.

“The reason behind these 10 consumer is that through the central bank's study, we found that generally all Malaysians will purchase these 10 items when they go shopping. And our final goal is to lower the costs of living,” said Saifuddin.

Targeted fuel subsidy

When asked regarding his efforts on fuel price and subsidies, Saifuddin explained that although the targeted fuel subsidy scheme is at 90 per cent completion, the government is also mulling its delivery and implementation process.

Using the current price for RON95 at RM2.08 as an example, he said that the dilemma facing Putrajaya is whether or not to give the needy an extra subsidy on top of the current pricing mechanism or float the price while giving the subsidy only to those who need it.

“Right now everyone from the rubber tappers in the villages to a managing director in a multinational enjoys the RM2.08 RON95 subsidised price.

“The two possibilities the government is looking at is whether or not to give the extra 30 sen subsidy per litre to those who need it and maintain the price at RM2.08 per litre or float the price and then give those who need it the 30 sen subsidy.

“Right now, we are still considering,” he explained.

Touching on the vendors for the fuel subsidy card, Saifuddin said that his ministry is only involved in the implementation process while the Finance Ministry has been tasked to call for an open tender with the vendors.

Food bank programme

However, in his eyes his proudest achievement over the past year is the Food Bank initiative which has pulled in volunteers from all aspects of life while at the same time being able to feed the poor.

“We received a lot of volunteers from NGOs, youths, mosques and other community leaders who get themselves involved without asking for anything in return. I'm also happy to have cut through a lot of red tape and bureaucracy when implementing the food bank.

“At the same time, we also managed to educate supermarkets, food outlets and hotels to avoid wastage and if there are excess food ― please send them to us,” said Saifuddin.

When asked regarding the call of Malay nationalists to change  the Food Bank's brand name to “Tabung Makanan”, the minister said that although he respects their call, the important thing is to ensure that people are fed and that branding is secondary.

However, he did not deny the possibility of changing the name some time in the future.

Saifuddin's goals for the year

When asked regarding his goals for the coming year, the minister said he aims at ensuring e-commerce will be more lucrative while turning the country into a very information and consumer literate nation.

However, Saifuddin did not disclose in detail on how he plans to take advantage of the online platform but did say his inspiration came from two of the world's biggest online retailers: Amazon.com and Alibaba.

“If you look at Amazon.com and Alibaba, they only have consumers and producers. When you cut down the supply chain, you also cut down the final price - giving it a price that everyone can be happy with.

“We started Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) in 1998, Jack Ma created Alibaba in 1999. At that time we had 30 per cent internet penetration and China only had one per cent penetration.

“We were three steps ahead but today, during Alibaba's anniversary they can net RM20 billion,” said Saifuddin, adding that the ministry plans on leveraging on e-commerce but did not disclose on his idea further.

On developing more literate consumers, the minister said he has engaged with various consumer groups such as the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) and others.

To this end, he said he has involved them in the National Consumer Action Council as his advisors.

However, he did not elaborate further.