150% Price Hike of Face Mask

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Under Pakatan Harapan, it was still profitable even selling a face mask at RM0.60.

As early as January, before Muhyiddin Yassin launched his “Sheraton coup” to topple his own government in order to form Perikatan Nasional backdoor government with the corrupt UMNO and extreme Islamist PAS, the then-Pakatan Harapan government had categorized face masks as price control items following the outbreak of the Coronavirus (which was still known as 2019-nCoV).

Essentially, the 2-layer medical or surgical mask was fixed at RM0.20 each while the retail price for a 3-layer of the same mask was selling at RM0.80 each. Traders or retailers found to have breached the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 would face fines up to RM100,000 or maximum 3-years’ jail, or both, or pay a compound of RM50,000.

But not many lucky souls managed to get their hands on the precious commodity. Thanks to panic buying of face masks, and even hand sanitisers, people continued with their normal life without the first defence. Get real, washing hands with soap is only sufficient if you stay at home. Once you go out, you’re taking a risk without a mask simply because you constantly breathe.

Now, after the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases breached the 1,000 mark to 1,030 with an additional 130 cases, not to mention a third death, the backdoor government of Muhyiddin Yassin has finally banned the exports of face masks effective March 18. It was quite amazing that the government took weeks before deciding to take care of fellow Malaysians.

On March 6, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry said the Muhyiddin government “may impose” a temporary ban on the export of face masks to meet local demand. Nothing happened. A week later on March 14, the same ministry said in the event of a serious shortage of face masks, the government “will consider” a face mask export ban. Still, nothing happened.

So, the genius in the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry had taken two weeks just to think and consider whether an export ban was a good idea, despite the number of Coronavirus cases kept hitting the roof – from two digits to three digits. Today, Malaysia has the fourth-highest number of Covid-19 infections in Asia – just behind South Korea (8,652), Iran (18,407) and China (80,967).

Perhaps the incompetent backdoor government wanted to wait to ensure enough people have died before seriously taking a simple action like securing face masks for the people. But even when the clueless ministry finally announced the export ban, the price of the 3-layer or three-ply face mask will now cost RM2 instead of RM0.80 a pop – a whopping 150% increase.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi claimed that the price of face masks needed to be increased due to higher cost of production materials. He said – “By allowing face masks to be sold at RM2, we hope to encourage local manufacturers to produce more.” He must have forgotten that the Pakatan Harapan had been the government prior.

The Pakatan Harapan coalition, which had since collapsed, exposed that apparently prior to the coup, the previous government had had discussions with local manufacturers to boost the stocks to ensure sufficient supply of masks within the country. In fact, it was revealed that the then-Pakatan Harapan government was prepared to purchase the face mask at RM0.60 a pop.

Now in the opposition, the Pakatan Harapan presidential council has claimed that the mask manufacturers “did not” demand for any price increase during discussions with the previous Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry. The manufacturers only asked for help with problems of insufficient workers, additional operation shifts, tax breaks and obtaining raw materials.

And those discussions took place before China managed to solve the Coronavirus plaguing the country. Now that the Chinese has won the war against the pathogen, getting the raw materials should not be an issue anymore. In fact, China has excessive products that it has donated 100,000 face masks to Malaysia, scheduled to arrive through an AirAsia flight on Friday (March 20).

Heck, China is flush with tons of masks that Alibaba billionaire Jack Ma has donated one million masks and 500,000 Coronavirus test kits to the United States, which is scheduled to arrive in the US on Monday morning. In addition, the wealthiest man in China will also send two million masks, 150,000 test kits, 20,000 protective suits and 20,000 face shields to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

With Muhyiddin now works hand-in-glove with the corrupt UMNO, will the past hanky-panky practice emerge once again where the hundreds of thousands of donated masks somehow disappear only to appear on the shelves of some retailers, making someone within the government very rich and laugh all the way to the bank? But that was not the main juice.

The juiciest part is this – if it was true that the local mask manufacturers could not produce 3-layer masks at RM0.60 a piece, which is not true based on Pakatan Harapan’s revelation, why can’t the government allow imports of the masks without raising the market price to RM2? Yes, some government cronies will be making 150% profit out of every face mask at the expense of the ordinary folks.

It was pretty simple to fix the shortage of face masks, if indeed Muhyiddin regime was sincere in helping the people. First, ban all exports of face masks under the pretext of national security. Second, the government will purchase all the masks manufactured locally at RM0.60 a piece as per discussed with the previous government. Third, allow imports of face masks to ensure sufficient supply and low price.

After all, it was only in February (before Muhyiddin’s coup to create the present backdoor government) that the previous Pakatan Harapan government officially announced that the shortage of 3-layer masks would be resolved once local manufacturers start to increase production with an extra 400,000 pieces daily – suggesting that it was still profitable even selling at RM0.60.

Hence, how could it be possible that the cost of production materials suddenly increases by a jaw-dropping 150% between February and March, at a time when China (the country has zero new cases domestically for a second consecutive day, mind you) has recovered from the plague and has so many extra masks to give away? The answer is quite obvious.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry admitted back in March 6 that thanks to the outbreak, the demand for 3-layer masks has skyrocketed to 15-million pieces every month. If the government were to buy at RM0.60 (as per earlier discussion between Pakatan Harapan and manufacturers) and resell at RM0.80 a pop, the profit will be only RM1.5 million based on 50:50 profit sharing with retailers.

Of course, if the previous government decided not to make any profit, the retailers will enjoy the entire RM3 million profits based on RM0.20 profit margin. However, now that Muhyiddin’s government decided to raise the market price to RM2 per piece, suddenly the profit will be RM18 million – every month. Even if retailers are allowed to make RM0.20 a pop, the government cronies will walk away with RM15 million.

Now, do you understand why the ministry announced that besides an increase of price from RM0.80 to RM2 for a piece of face mask, the government has also decided to allow imports of the masks? By doing so, the actual price could be even lower than RM0.60 due to competition. An additional RM0.10 of lower cost will translate to a cool extra RM1.5 million easy money without lifting a finger – every month.

Indeed, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that Muhyiddin’s backdoor government is a bloodsucking regime who would not blink twice at profiting from the people even in times of Coronavirus pandemic. To prove its innocence, the government must therefore debunk the revelation that the manufacturers had agreed to sell face mask at RM0.60 a piece to the Pakatan Harapan government. – Finance Twitter