Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Diesel and petrol prices increase

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Fuel prices are up across the board for the fourth week of April under the new weekly pricing mechanism.

The price of RON95 petrol has gone up by three sen to RM2.27 per litre compared to RM2.24 last week, while the price of RON97 petrol has gone up by two sen to RM2.54 compared to RM2.52 per litre last week.

The price of diesel has also increased, with a five sen increase to RM2.21 this week compared to RM2.16 per litre last week.

The new prices will come into effect on Thursday and will remain in effect until April 26.

The Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry posted the new weekly fuel prices on Twitter.

Previously, its Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin announced that a new weekly fuel pricing mechanism would be used from April onwards.

The prices of petrol and diesel had been placed on a managed monthly float system since Dec 1, 2014, following the removal of fuel subsidies

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SHA against implementation of tourism tax

Friday, April 14th, 2017


A GRAVE CONCERN…Chan (right) and Narendra warned the tourism tax will drive tourists away.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Hotel Association (SHA) is against the implementation of the proposed tourism tax tabled at the current Parliament sitting in Kuala Lumpur.

Its president, Christopher Chan warned the tourism tax renamed from the earlier proposed tourism levy will have a profound impact on the hotel industry and the overall tourism industry of Malaysia.

“The hotels have been tasked to demand from our hotel guests to pay this tax which is normally out of our trade jurisdiction.

“We will have to set up another collection point which is not to be included in our accounting system and it will be separated,” said Chan during a press conference at a hotel here, yesterday. Also present was its committee member Narendra Sinniah.

Under the circumstances, he said a different set of staff will have to be employed to do this work with new accounting software, printers and stationery which have nothing to do with the hotel.

“The cost of setting up this function will cost each hotel expenses in excess of RM68,000 annually.

“For example, as four staff are needed to do the task with a minimum salary of RM1,200 per person each month, in one year we need to pay RM57,600 for their salaries including RM8,640 for EPF and RM2,306 for Socso. The total sum is RM68,546 annually,” reckoned Chan.

“Imagine the impact that will burden the whole hotel industry in Malaysia. The other issue will be..are they going to be charged once or for the whole duration of their stay?” he asked.

“I met two ladies who were on a four-week holiday to Malaysia starting in Sabah before going to Kuala Lumpur and proceeding to Langkawi and Penang. Do you think they are going to be charged on each hotel check-in?” asked Chan.

With so many centres created for the purpose, he said it is definitely not the most effective and cost efficient way to fulfil the purpose. The hotels will be strapped with a long term running cost which does not contribute any income or benefit to the organisation.

Furthermore, he said there are foreigners working here on work pass and those on diplomatic status. “What authority does the hotel have to ask for documents for exemption?”

“There are those foreigners with permanent residence status. What about those tourists who put up with relatives or friend’s houses? Are the hotels given immunity from any legal actions by third parties? And will such cases be undertaken by the government?” asked Chan.

Tourism Malaysia reports the total tourist arrivals to Malaysia in 2016 were 26.8 million contributing RM82.1 billion to the country’s revenue.

“This translated into RM3,068 per capita and are they going to be happy to be charged a tax for going on holiday in Malaysia?

“If they come in we can make more business, if not, every lost customer is zero opportunity,” he stressed. In the case of Sabah which raked in RM7.25 billion in tourism receipts from the arrivals of 3.4 million tourists that translated into RM2,132 per capita income, he pointed out.

“I don’t believe that we can afford to see any drop in tourist arrivals due to the imposition of tourism tax as the tour operators might lose out to other tourist destinations in Asean as a result of higher cost in our tour packages. “A drop in 1 per cent alone in tourist arrival will see a loss of RM7.25 million that goes with the RM435,000 GST,” warned Chan.


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Fuel prices up for third week of April.

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Petrol prices are up for the third week of April, under the new weekly pricing mechanism.

RON95 petrol will retail at RM2.24 per litre up, eight sen from RM2.16 last week, while RON97 petrol is priced at RM2.52, up nine sen from RM 2.43.

The price of diesel is RM2.16 compared with last week’s price of RM2.08 per litre.

The new prices will come into effect on Thursday, and will remain until April 19.

The Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry posted the new weekly fuel prices on Twitter.

Previously, Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin announced that a new weekly fuel pricing mechanism would be used from April onwards.

The prices of petrol and diesel had been placed on a managed monthly float system since Dec 1, 2014, following the removal of fuel subsidies.

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Foreign residents to pay higher fees

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

SEREMBAN: Foreigner residents now have to fork out a heftier deposit when seeking treatment at government hospitals in a move to reduce medical subsidy for non-citizens.

The Health Ministry, in a directive, announced the new rates for wards and surgery with a hike of 130% to 230%.

Its deputy secretary-general Datuk Mohd Shafiq Abdullah said the new rates took effect imme­diately.

For third-class wards, foreigners will now need to pay a deposit of RM1,400 compared with RM600 previously.

If they are in for a surgery, they will have to pay a deposit of RM2,800 instead of RM1,200.

Foreigners who need inpatient treatment in the second-class wards will have to provide a deposit of RM3,000, and RM5,000 for surgery. The old rates were RM900 and RM1,500 respectively.

Those warded in the executive and first-class wards will have to pay RM7,000 up front and RM11,000 for surgery, instead of RM2,100 and RM3,300.

The new rates apply to both children and adults, except for fo­reigners holding permanent resident (PR) status.

Also exempted are foreigners legally married to locals and children below the age of 12, provided that one parent is a Malaysian or PR holder.

The Government first introduced separate rates for foreigners in January 2015 after it was revealed that they took up between 30% and 40% of the subsidy in medical treatment for Malaysians.

The Government then also deci­ded that subsidy for foreigners would be gradually cut.

The ministry wants medical officers to get in touch with the next of kin of any foreigner who is unconscious when wheeled into the hospital’s emergency department.

This is to ensure that the deposit has been paid before the patient is warded.
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Making Form Six compulsory

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

THE move by the Education Ministry to set up at least one Form Six College in each state is a welcome move to boost Form Six education.

At present, there are 14 Form Six colleges in nine states, each with their own premises and administration.

Overall, there are 634 mainstream schools in the country that offer Form Six, with classes in separate school blocks. However, despite the emphasis on Form Six education, enrolment has dwindled over the years.

To address this, the government has to make Form Six education compulsory for those wishing to continue their tertiary studies.

Today, many Form Five students enrol in private colleges and universities after SPM to do their Foundation and Pre-University studies.

The government needs to revert back to the old system where only Form Six students were allowed to further their studies in universities and colleges.

The SPM should not be an entry point for tertiary studies.

By making Form Six a condition for entry into tertiary education, there will then be more students enrolling for Form Six.

By taking Form Six after SPM, these students could be exposed to the required transitional strategies and skills to adapt to varsity life and the job market. Form Six should be the ticket to enter university.

However, Form Six should be run in an independent institute and not be affiliated with secondary schools. This would make Form Six more feasible, viable and attractive to students and lecturers.

The Education Ministry need not build separate institutes for Form Six because some Teacher Education Institutes (TEI) are being transformed to vocational and technical training centres due to limited teacher trainee intakes. Some of these TEI can be transformed to accommodate Form Six students.

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Prices of chicken and veggies to go up during fasting month.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

JOHOR BARU: Consumers may have to fork out extra money next month as the prices of cucumber, red chillies, long beans and poultry are expected to increase during the fasting month of Ramadan, which is expected to fall on May 27.

Traders at the Tebrau, Johor Jaya and Larkin wet markets here claim that it is normal for prices of essential goods to go up during Ramadan, as demand for vegetables and chicken increases.

A vegetable seller at the Larkin market, Tai Meng Tian, 40, said the price of cucumber would go up to RM2 per kilo from RM1.60 and red chillies from RM9 to RM12 per kilo.

“Suppliers take advantage by increasing the prices as they know that the prices will be controlled 10 days before Hari Raya Aidilfitri,” he said.

Fellow trader Abdul Kadir Syed Ibrahim, 65, said sellers had no choice but to pass the extra cost on to customers.

“We are getting red chillies at RM12 per kilo and we have to sell them at RM15,” he said.

A trader at Pasar Johor Jaya, P. Narayani, 58, said the price of long beans would likely increase from RM7.50 now to RM12 per kilo.

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Depression: Poor conditions common in mental health care facilities.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
PETALING JAYA: Made to shower naked in the open, sleep in a room without curtains, ignored, stigmatised and shunned. Such is the condition of some patients who suffer from mental health problems in Malaysia.

International Medical University, consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, Dr Philip George said he witnessed this at one of the prominent mental health clinics in Malaysia.

“They renamed the clinic in hopes of trying to remove the stigma revolving around the place, not the disease, but the place.

“But if you go there and see the way people are treated,  it is heartbreaking and unfair to them. They are subject to ill-treatment simply because they have a mental disorder and that should never be the case,” he said during a Mental Health Seminar in Damansara.

He added that despite multiple attempts by many psychologists and psychiatrists to bring about improvements in mental health treatment in Malaysia, it seemed to fail every time.

“Sometime back, I had brought down my mentor from Australia here, and during his visit, I took him to the men’s psych ward, shortly after we walked in, he had to run out to vomit!. That is how bad things are for patients with mental health problems here.

“I had even asked my students ‘what if you needed to be admitted there, or send your parents or family there for treatment? all of them would not stay there for more than an hour,” he said adding that he had made a lot of attempts to push for better facilities.

He added that instead of acknowledging the attempts, institutes like Institut Jantung Negara and Institut Respiratory Negara are being built and improved.

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Depression: 40% of Malaysians will suffer from mental health issues in their lifetime.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Four out of every 10 Malaysians will fall victim to some form of mental health issue in the course of their lives and psychologists believe that the numbers will continue to rise.

International Medical University, consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, Dr Philip George said that numbers are often downplayed due to the stigma that surrounds the condition.

He added that the seriousness and the prevalence of issues like depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues should be accepted and acknowledged first in order to be treated.

“This is not something that only attacks the poor, weak and lonely. It happens to anyone and the World Bank had predicted that 340mil people will suffer from depression by 2020.

“Though the National Health and Morbidity survey says only 1.8% of the Malaysian population are depressed, we think there is a flaw and believe that at least 10% of Malaysians suffer from mental health issues.

“The difference is Asians do not talk about their problems. Unlike Caucasians, asians do not have the words for emotions and that is a huge barrier,” he said adding that  many people who walk among us are at least facing mild depression.

“They consider having an emotional problem to be a weakness, so instead they attribute it to a physical problem and highlight things like their inability to sleep, back pain, headache and constant fatigue.

He added that the National Institute of Health had found that depression to be a most disabling disease as it is not tangible and people find it hard to emphatise.

“It is not something one can snap out of, just like how people cannot snap out of diabetes or a stroke.

“However, with enough help and support, almost 90% of the patients can be restored to normal. Yes, they may have a relapse as their emotions are more sensitive, but they can be cured with the right help,” he added.

Supporting his statement was consultant psychiatrist, Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj who added that by 2030, depression will be the most disabling disease as it will have the highest number of days lost due to a disability.

He explained that a study done in the United States found that 30 to 40% of absenteeism at work is due to unexplained somatic complaints like body ache, lack of sleep, and lethargy.

“No studies have been done in Malaysia but a primary care study in Thailand about five years ago showed up to 30% were psychosomatic complaints.

“Many go unreported because firstly the difficulty in diagnosing depression, followed by the inability of people to recognise the symptoms of depression themselves,” he said adding that many who are in fact depressed are unwilling and embarrassed to come forward for treatment.


Depression: Health Ministry needs to boost mental health facilities.

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017
Hospital Bahagia is one of the main facilities in Malaysia dedicated to treating mental health issues.

Hospital Bahagia is one of the main facilities in Malaysia dedicated to treating mental health issues.

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is looking to expand and improve facilities needed for mental health treatment, but the urgency of the upgrades depends on the diseases burden to the nation.

The ministry’s deputy director general Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai told The Star Online that facilities given priority for improvements are those coping with the largest disease burdens.

“At the moment, the highest burden are diabetes and dialysis where more than a billion ringgit is spent annually.

“The number of diabetes patients and those going for amputation and dialysis are all big numbers, so that is what we are working on now,” he said adding that it needs to be understood that every single focus group feels that their condition is the most important.

He added that the ministry is aware of the lack in mental health facilities here and is working towards getting more psychologists and psychiatrists in the service.

“We understand there are certain limitations and since it is becoming acceptable for people to openly discuss mental health issues and address  the need for it to be treated, we will definitely work towards improving the services needed.

“Although a lot of mental health patients can be sent back into the community as a form of treatment, others for various reasons, are not allowed to leave the hospitals. The stigma around mental health issues also makes the situation worse, which is why it is important for this to be addressed and worked upon,” he said.

Asked on rumours of mental health institutions here poorly maintained, Dr Jeyaindran said the ministry monitors all medical institutes and hospitals around the country, especially mental hospitals with a large number of patients.

“The problem is that most of these hospitals deal with more patients than they were originally built for. A decade ago doctors and nurses were allocated to a hospital in accordance to the number of beds, but now the hospital sees double or triple the number.

“Unfortunately, these hospitals have not kept up with the increase and now the ministry is taking upon itself to re-look the number of people needed by doing what we call ‘work-leveling’.

He said that the process will asses how much a doctor can and should do while assessing the dynamics of the work.

“Of course we cannot run away from the fact that we need more hospitals to maintain the amount good quality services to the people.

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Still no electricity supply due to incomplete documentation

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: A rural electrification project in Kg Litang, Sukau that was completed four years ago is still unable to supply electricity to the villagers due to incomplete documentation from the contractor.

The project, costing some RM2 million, was meant to provide electricity to 50 houses in the village but Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) cannot take over the independent power plant because the contractor has not submitted at least nine types of documents required by the utility company.

These include the vital Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CFO) that must be obtained from the Fire and Rescue Services Department.

Technical reports on the project site, types of equipment and generator used which are required by SESB have not been submitted either.

The matter came to light when a group of SESB officials paid a courtesy call on Sukau assemblyman, Datuk Saddi Haji Abdul Rahman who is also the chairman of KPD at his office in Wisma Pertanian yesterday.

Among them were SESB general manager of power generation, Razak Salleh, general manager of corporate communications, Chenderamata Hj Sinteh and Sukau community development leader, Awang Ahmad Hj Ongkang. SESB’s chief engineer for rural projects, Suadi Wahab said the utility company had met the contractor and FELCRA several times and the contractor had in fact, promised to submit the documents at least by 24 March. “Until today, we have not received all of the required documents,” he said.

Saddi had earlier inquired about the delay in commissioning the power plant after receiving a deluge of complaints from the villagers.

The project was allocated by the federal Ministry of Rural and Regional Development.

Saddi will instruct the District Officer of Kinabatangan to hold a meeting with the contractor and FELCRA present in order to settle the matter.

“I am flooded with inquiries by people from Litang and Sukau over the delay,” he said while admitting that he was unaware of the project despite his frequent visits to Litang.

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