Prices of basic goods dipped lowest in April since last year; fuel records sharpest drop

A Caltex petrol station at Jalan Pahang is pictured during the second phase of the movement control order on April 1, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
A Caltex petrol station at Jalan Pahang is pictured during the second phase of the movement control order on April 1, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 — Malaysia’s consumer goods price inflation dropped 2.9 percentage points in April compared to the same period last year, with fuel recording the sharpest drop, official figures released showed today.

The Department of Statistics’ latest inflation data marks the lowest monthly year-on-year consumer price index rate, but was expected as the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world and domestic economy hard.

Fuel accounted for the biggest CPI decrease at 21.5 percentage points, underscoring the global rout in oil prices as governments restricted travel and movement. 

Nearly half the world was placed under some form of lockdown when the novel coronavirus epidemic peaked in February and March, rendering planes, public transport, and even private vehicles mostly grounded.

Retail prices of RON95 and RON97 up until May 22 are RM1.31 and RM1.61 a litre respectively, up six sen each from last week. 

The increases are the highest in two weeks, as global crude prices bumped up slightly over the last few weeks on the back of optimism that trade would pick up again as countries slowly began lifting restrictions.

Diesel price is up by 5 sen at RM1.41 a litre for the same period.

Utilities recorded the second biggest drop after fuel, contracting 2.2 percentage points compared to 1.6 per cent in March.

This was likely due to the government cutting tariffs for electricity and incentivising property owners to slash rent with tax rebates, as part of the RM260 billion Prihatin “stimulus” package meant to cushion Covid-19’s blow.

Meanwhile food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation were flat at 1.2 per cent from the previous month. 

Only communication bills increased from the same period, up 0.1 percentage points to 1.6 per cent in April. 

Smartphone and wifi data use increased exponentially during the six-week movement control order, according to internet service providers.

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