After petrol hike, sugar and flour prices next? Details in coming budget, paper reports

Consumers have to brace themselves for a possible price hike in sugar and flour less than a month after Putrajaya cut fuel subsidies and assured that the prices of these two essential items would not be increased.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Hasan Malek hinted that subsidies for sugar and flour might be reduced as part of the government’s subsidy rationalisation plan.

The details will be announced during the tabling of the 2014 Budget on October 25, English daily The New Straits Times reported today

"The government's intention is to strengthen the economy. We do not want to be like the United States, where its economy has been shut down," he was quoted as saying by the newspaper after opening a briefing on a current issues and consumerism campaign with hawkers and petty traders in Ipoh, Perak.

Consumers already reeling from the effects of the fuel hike early last month were urged by Hasan to look at the positive side of Putrajaya’s move. He added that any new measures by the government was meant for their overall wellbeing.

"Sometimes certain actions need to be carried out. For me, the country's interest is paramount." he added.

Hasan had previously assured consumers the price of sugar and flour would not be raised by manufacturers.

“Consumers do not have to worry as they also assured that the supply is enough to meet demand,” Hasan was quoted as saying by Utusan Malaysia on September 13.

Following the 20-sen hike in RON95 petrol and diesel on September 2 and a 15-sen increase in RON97 petrol two days later, Hasan had said that food prices were expected to go up only by 0.1%, quoting a study done by his ministry on the effects of a fuel price increase.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said the new prices would save the government at least RM1.1 billion this year.

To cushion the effects on the public, Najib said the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) payout would be increased this year.

Upon the announcement of the fuel price hikes, outraged Malaysians formed long queues at petrol stations to fill up and took to social media to express their views.

However, economists hailed it as the right move to address the ever-increasing government debt, which currently stands at 53.5% as at the end of last year. – October 6, 2013.