KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) presidential council has lambasted the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s announcement that it would be raising the market price of three-ply face masks from RM0.80 cents apiece to RM2.

It said such a price increase is excessive, and does not help to calm anxious Malaysians nor address the actual issue of insufficient supplies.

“Pakatan Harapan urges the government to continue and finalise discussions with the industry, with the objective of asking them to increase the production of face masks,” said the council in a statement.

Based on earlier discussions, PH said four issues need to be addressed immediately so as to aid the face mask industry in reaching those objectives.

“These include aiding the industry in overcoming the problem of insufficient workers, and expediting the process of approving additional operation shifts from two to three.

“Other issues include granting exemptions or certain tax breaks, as stated under the Customs Act 1967, and aiding the industry in obtaining raw materials to increase the production of face masks,” it said.

As China is the world’s largest producer of face masks, Pakatan also said the government should discuss with Beijing via government-to-government channels how to make it easier for industries and companies in Malaysia to import face masks, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic plateauing in China.

“Finally, the former Pakatan Harapan government attempted a wholesale purchasing scheme from all face mask producers in the country. At the time, the industry could produce up to seven million face masks a week, and steps were already prepared to ensure that stocks within Malaysia remain sufficient.

“Indeed, in all discussions between the then-Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministers and industry representatives, the issue of pricing was never once raised. The Pakatan Harapan government was prepared to purchase the face mask stocks at RM0.60 apiece,” it said, urging PN to review its announcement and not place unnecessary burdens on the rakyat at large.

Earlier today, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi said the government has greenlit the importation of face masks into Malaysia to ensure sufficient supply in the local market.

Linggi said the ceiling price was set to RM2 apiece now from RM0.80 due to the lack of processing materials and increased cost of basic materials.