Under pressure, govt may slash face mask ceiling price

Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi’s suggestion has been shot down by Ismail Sabri.

By Chew Lip Song

TWO days after Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi announced that the ceiling price of three-ply facemask will be hiked by 150 per cent, the government today said it may review the decision.

Senior minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said the government agreed that the new ceiling price of RM2 was too high compared to RM0.80 originally, Malaysiakini reported.

He said there was also no reason for the price hike as the government has agreed to waive import duties for the product.

“The prime minister has also voiced his disagreement over the sharp increase in ceiling price.

“So tomorrow we will discuss this matter. The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry (KPDNHEP) will review it, and we want the price to go lower, and if possible, back to what had been set before.

“There was no reason to increase the ceiling price as the government has agreed to waive the import duties for face masks. We will decide on this tomorrow,” he told reporterstoday in Putrajaya.

Two days ago, Linggi had said that the move would help to increase the supply of face masks in Malaysia.

However, the decision had since met with criticisms, including by former domestic trade minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail who questioned the decision.

Saifuddin said that when he was still holding Alexander’s portfolio late last month, there were meetings with producers and none of them asked for a price increase. He said all producers had agreed to ramp up production.

Meanwhile, on the acquisition of face masks for the use of the country’s frontliners, Ismail said the government has asked the National Disaster Management Agency to speed up the process to purchase 10 million pieces from China.

He said the country needs the supply as soon as possible, and cannot wait much longer.

“The masks are fully paid by the government, and priority would be given to frontliners who are engaged directly with Covid-19 operations such as the healthcare workers at hospital, police, the Armed Forces, and Rela.

“If there is a surplus, the masks would be distributed to areas that have been identified as high risks. And from there, if there are balance, the government would decide how the masks should be distributed,” Ismail said.

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