Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chinese New Year Open House 19 Feb 2015 hosted by ICW President

Close to 200 members and supporters of Ipoh City Watch, friends and neighbors attended the Chinese New Year hosted by the President of ICW at his residence in Desa Tambun Indah on 19 Feb 2015.

It was a sort of gathering and fellowship for ICW especially for Watchaaers who only "met' via Whatsapp but have not met face-to-face. Guest of honor was YB Dato Samsudin Bin Abu Hassan who was also the Perak State Exco for Consumer Affairs, Human Resources and Civil Society. Also presence was Clr Dato Shamsuddin Bun Ghaffar,

It was a Chinese New celebration in the spirit of muhibbah with all races coming together. ICW is race blind watching over 750,000 rate payers to ensure that Ipoh becomes the most livable city in Malaysia.  


Move to clean up Ipoh - The Star - 18 Feb 2015

THE Ipoh City Council is very concerned over the city’s cleanliness, in particular the issue of illegal dumpsites around Ipoh.
Mayor Datuk Harun Rawi’s special officer Mohd Shahrizal Azmi, said the council, and especially Harun, were very committed to addressing these issues, and that several measures have been taken to improve the cleanliness of the city.
“We have sub-contracted drain clearing works at five areas, which are Buntong, Kampung Simee, Ipoh Garden, Bercham and Tambun.
“We have also outsourced 75% of domestic and industrial waste collection operations, whereas the remaining 25% is done by the council.
“In addition, we are also facilitating the implementation of gotong-royong programmes in all zones under the council’s jurisdiction, as well as adding and replacing old vehicles and machinery with new ones,” he said in a media statement recently.
However, Mohd Shahrizal noted that these efforts require the support from all citizens in Ipoh.
“We urge citizens to dispose of their rubbish responsibly, and make maintaining the cleanliness of their houses and the environment a shared responsibility.
“Without a change in attitude, it makes it even more difficult for the council to rectify the situation we have at hand,” he said.
Based on observations by council members, Mohd Shahrizal said illegal dumpsites mainly comprise disposals done by various groups of people.
“This includes residents, who dispose of their domestic waste, garden refuse and bulky waste, and irresponsible business owners who throw away food remains, plastic, bottles and so on.
“Contractors are at fault too due to their disposal of construction materials,” he said.
In view of this, Mohd Shahrizal said the council was currently researching on appropriate measures to curb this issue.
“We will continue to clear illegal dumpsites during weekends, and re-coordinate our enforcement so that necessary action would be taken against litterbugs.
“We are also looking into hiring contractors for regular garden refuse collection and clearing waste in markets and hawker centres,” he said.
He added that close cooperation between the council and the people is vital to ensure that Ipoh is a clean city.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Are businesses profiteering from low oil prices? - The Malaysian Insider

As the debate on the price of goods takes on an increasingly racial tone with calls to certain businesses, there is some good news from vegetable wholesalers – the price of leafy greens is set to drop this week to a fraction of what it was a month ago.

According to the Vegetable Wholesalers Association (VWA), leafy vegetables such as kangkung, sawi (mustard leaves), spinach, and bok choy (Chinese cabbage) will go for as low as RM1 per kg.
A month ago, they were going for as high as RM8 a packet even in working-class neighbourhood supermarkets.
But the fall in prices for vegetables is not likely to satisfy those who believe that low fuel prices automatically means lower grocery bills, and that if it does not, it means businesses are profiteering.
In fact, it shows how the whole debate is more complex than Umno politicians such as Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob make it out to be.
The agriculture and agro-based industries minister had earlier last week urged Malays to boycott errant Chinese traders on his Facebook page.
Ismail had courted controversy after he posted the remark in relation to prices of goods that have not gone down despite the drop in petrol and diesel prices.
Ismail said Malay consumers had a role in helping the government fight profiteers by using their collective power to lower the prices of goods.
VWA secretary Chong Tek Keong said the fall in prices of vegetables was mostly due to the weather.
The prolonged rainy season led to low harvests and prices went up. As the weather improved, farmers all over the country are harvesting their crops all at once and now there is a glut.
This illustrates how there are more complex factors that determine the price of goods than just the price of oil and that high prices cannot simply be blamed on race and profiteering.
Combination of factors
The debate on whether low oil prices was going to be good for the country started late last year as they began steadily falling from US$60 (RM216) per barrel in November.
Even then one of the country’s think-tanks, the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, said that it was difficult to predict whether low fuel prices would result in a net benefit.
This is because there are other factors in the production chain that affect the final price consumers pay at the store counter.
One big factor that came with low oil prices was a weak ringgit, which meant that manufacturers and suppliers would need to pay more for imported raw materials and goods.
Today, the ringgit was trading at RM3.56 to the US dollar. A few weeks ago it had fallen to about RM3.60 to the greenback, its lowest in six years.
The ringgit’s value, said Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) chief executive Datuk Paul Selvaraj, was a big determinant in final store prices.
“Most of our food is imported. I asked a retailer how much of his goods are imported. He laughed and said how much is left that is local?” said Selavaj, when describing one of the groups’ surveys among retailers.
“Import costs are a big factor. What a retailer gets today from the importer goes directly to the shelves,” said Selvaraj.
Chong estimates that 30% of the country’s produce has to be imported and the figure rises every year.
In a brief email, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) also said the ringgit’s depreciation had caused the cost of raw materials such as milk solids and meat to increase sharply.
Another factor is the price of electricity, which has not come down even though the price of fuels for power generation – natural gas, liquefied natural gas and coal – has fallen.
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said when Tenaga Nasional Berhad raised tariffs by 15% in January last year, natural gas was RM13.70 to RM15.20 per MMBtu, coal was US$85-87.5 per tonne and LNG was RM41.68/MMBtu.
Coal, she said has come down to US$67 per tonne while the prices of gas and LNG have come down in parallel with the price of crude oil.
And then there are also unequal market conditions, such as monopolies for certain goods and materials.
Licensing restrictions to import can create monopolies, said Selvaraj. This could lead to price fixing among those involved in the monopoly.
According to the International Trade and Industry Ministry’s (Miti) website, there are more than 30 items which required an import licence.
The list includes rice, sugar, wheat flour, milk, steel and iron products, cars, motorcycles, construction machinery and helmets.
Miti’s website states some reasons a permit is needed for these materials. They include the need to protect the interests of local manufacturers, public health and local plant life.
“Retailers say they can offer cheaper prices if there was more freedom to bring in goods,” said Selvaraj.
He said the government has to create a more liberated and open market as that would drive up competition.
“More competition would force entrepreneurs to work harder to bring in cheaper products to attract more consumers.”
Oil still matters, a lot 
But even with the fact that the production supply chain is ruled by numerous factors, the effect of low fuel prices should not be overlooked.
Petrol, said Selvaraj, was still considered a high multiplier, when it came to calculating the consumer price index, a metric used to measure inflation.
“It is a significant component. We feel that a drop in fuel prices warrants a general decrease in prices. Businesses have always used the excuse of high fuel prices to raise the price of goods.”
When there is little response from producers on why there is not even a small drop in prices when fuel costs go down, it breeds suspicions that they are profiteering.
This is seen in the numerous groups that came out to support of Ismail’s statement for Malays to boycott Chinese businesses.
In a February 4 report in Utusan Online, some of these groups even claimed that prices have even gone up even while petrol is now RM 1.70 a litre.
One commentator, Irwan Fahmi Ideris of Malay supremacist group Perkasa, said the price of a “kopi O ais” was more than a litre of petrol.
When The Malaysian Insider asked the FMM, whose members included food and consumer goods manufacturers, to respond to allegations of profiteering, this is its response: “There are many elements/variables affecting price increase/reduction of manufactured goods.
“The entire supply chain has to be factored in, from the cost of raw materials, energy, logistics, packaging, financing, to foreign exchange rates.
“However, our members will always explore all avenues to manage costs for optimum production and improve productivity and we are committed to pass on cost savings to customers by way of price reduction where feasible.” – February 9, 2015.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

ICW on a month long campaign to educate Ipohites on how to spend wisely

On Oct 2 2014 the price of petrol RON95 and diesel went up 20 sen from RM2.10 to RM2.30 for RON95 and RM2.00 to RM2.20 for diesel. Prices of other goods automatically gone up the following day citing increase in transportation cost.

On Jan 1 2015, prices of RON95 and RON97 gone down by 35 sen per litre and diesel by 30 sen per litre. There were no sign of prices of goods going down. With the drop, the price of RON95 was RM1.91 and RON97 was RM2.11 per litre. Price of diesel dropped to RM1.93 per litre. Again none of the eateries are willing to drop the prices of food and drinks. 

"Our pricess are increased because the raw stuff prices has increased and nothing to do with fuel price!", said a mamak restaurant manager. Same excuse used by other eateries and shops.

On Feb 1 2015, again the prices of fuel has dropped. RON95 was sold at RM1.70 per litre, RON97 at RM2.00 and diesel at RM2.00 per litre. With Chinese New Year around the corner, again the price charged by most Chinese owned eaterier increased between 10 sen to 50 sen citing extra wages paid to staff working over Chinese New Year period. This is a convenient way of increasing price of food and drinks each year.

Of course Malaysia is a free country and every restaurants, coffee shops, mamak stalls and other shops and suppliers included can charge a price they feel consumers are willing based on the economic formula of demand and supply.

ICW too has the right and obligation to the 750,000 Ipohites by educating them to use their consumer power to force prices down. Thus we are embarking on a month long campaign starting today Feb 7 2015 to go down to meet the people and visit shops and eateries that take proactive approach in lowering the prices of their products or services through creative marketing strategies, or outlets that may not reduce their prices due to the value added service provided which consumers accept as fair. These outlets are then certified by ICW as its Most Preferred Fair Price outlet. With this status, the outlet will be to attract more business as the list of these outlets will be published in ICW blog, website and FB to inform Ipohites to shop at these places for cost savings.

This morning we have started visited many outlets but managed to identify and certified 5 outlets as follows:

Outlet No.1: 

Kedai Ubat Yee Sheng located in Desa Tambun Indah. Owner Mr. Lai Kin Siang, a very creative guy in marketing buying in big bulks and pass on the lower price to consumers. 

Outlet No. 2:

Autocraft Car Accessories shop located next to Ipoh City Hotel, Jln Dass, Ipoh. Owner Mr. Yeap Ming Choong (or simply Ah Choong) runs a car accessories shop for many years. Very reasonable price for car service and maintenance besides accessories.

Outlet No. 3:

Lalqila Catering & Cafe located behind Telekom and at the junction of Jln Toh Puan Chah and Jln Mahendran in Ipoh. Owner Mr. Dollah, formerly of Pakeeza. Famous Kuey Teow with egg, cockles and prawn at RM5. Good ambience. 

Outlet No. 4:

J Ipoh Curry House located at KIA Sports Club Jln Gurdwara. Owner Mdm Jeya is also the Exco Member of ICW. Serving home cook food from 7am to 10pm daily. 

Banana leaf chicken rice and vege at RM5.

Simple lunch with fish and vege cost only RM3.

Outlet No. 5:

Restoran Nasi Kandar Sinar Jaya at Jln Silibin near the round about. Owner Mr. Subramaniam is the husband of Mdm Jeya, an Exco Member of ICW.  

The list will continue with more outlets as we do more walkabouts and surveys. With this approach, we hope Ipohites will be able to choose outlets that can help provide value for money.