‘Better to have mini petrol stations, mini markets’

KUCHING: The setting up of mini petrol stations or mini markets in the rural areas is regarded as being more efficient in helping the government to save costs, while achieving its intended objectives.

In this regard, Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen points out that this year to date, the government has allocated RM90 million to subsidise the transportation costs as part of the price standardisation programme relating to the transportation of essential items such as flour, sugar and petrol to the rural areas in Sarawak.

Chong speaks during the fund-raising dinner.

“It is the intention of the government so that consumers in the rural areas (in Sarawak) will be able to purchase essential items at the same prices as those in the urban areas, without being affected by the high transportation costs. Throughout Sarawak, there are 1,600 points-of-sale (POS) in the rural areas that sell essential items to the people,” he said during a fund-raising dinner at a restaurant here on Friday, adding that in Miri alone, RM16 million had been allocated to 366 POS in the rural areas.

However, he noted that prices of essential items in the rural areas were still more expensive than those in the urban areas, despite the government having borne much of the transportation costs.

“With a team of only 18 officers from the ministry, it is impossible for the ministry to monitor the activities of the 366 POS in Miri. The transporters have also abused the transportation subsidy by claiming money, even when they are not delivering any items to the rural areas.

“Instead of benefitting the rural folk, the allocated money would only go into the pockets of these transporters,” he complained.

Chong also blamed the previous government’s administration on its failure in rectifying this problem, despite being aware of it.

On his recommendation of setting up mini petrol stations or mini markets, the deputy minister proposed having these facilities in 10 to 15 places across the rural areas in Miri, deemed to be more populated.

“By doing so (the proposal), it would be easier for our ministry officers to monitor them and achieve the intended objectives of having the transportation subsidy.”

Chong added that such proposal would be able to save at least 70 per cent from the total allocation of RM16 million.

On a separate issue, he viewed the open-tender system practised by the current Sarawak government as ‘not being efficient’, as not enough time is being given to the companies interested in securing the contracts.

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