Panel to study living costs

KUALA LUMPUR: Several ministers will be part of a high-level committee tackling the rise in living costs when it meets in January.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he would be heading the committee, which would look into views from various non-governmental organisations.

“God willing, I will chair it (the meeting) in early January. In the early stages, six ministers… will be involved in this committee,” he told reporters at the Putra World Trade Centre here yesterday.

Among others, the ministers will be those from the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, International Trade and Industry, and Education Ministries.

He said this after attending a forum by a group known as Yayasan Damai Sejahtera Malaysia (YDSM).

Representing some 50 NGOs, six topics, including students and families, were raised as those in need of Government attention.

In his speech, Dr Ahmad Zahid acknowledged these problems, mentioning the “one-sided” concession agreements signed previously by the Government.

He implied that if these agreements – signed with private companies – were to be renegotiated, it would cost the Government billions of ringgit.

He also advised the people “not to point fingers”, adding that the Government was looking at the best way to handle these agreements.

On the courtesy call by Saudi Arabia’s Al-Masjid an-Nabawi imam, Sheikh Dr Abdul Muhsin Muham­mad al-Qasim, Dr Ahmad Zahid said they spoke on various matters, including the strengthening of Saudi-Malaysia relations, terrorism and religion.

Asked about a recent Wall Street Journal report on 1Malaysia Deve­lopment Berhad (1MDB), Ahmad Zahid said the matter was best left to investigators.

In an immediate reaction, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said it would like to be involved in the high-level discussion on the cost of living.

“People are complaining that whatever they earn is not enough as the prices of essential items have increased.

“We want the Government to give allocation to the people to grow more vegetables and their own produce to cut costs,” its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said yesterday.

Penang Hindu Association deputy president P. Murugiah called for a survey to be conducted on the cost of living for the rural and urban poor.

“The last time such a survey was conducted was more than 10 years ago,” he said, claiming that the number of children having to leave school due to the cost of living had also increased.

“We have admitted 15 children into orphanages this year alone,” he said, adding that prices had gone up by between 100% and 200% in the past 10 years.

@thestar.com.my – Panel to study living costs