Sunday, October 24, 2021

Minister shares rationale behind green light for ‘non-essential’ gold stores

Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi says the permission to continue operating granted to goldsmiths and jewellers is not intended to benefit the wealthy.

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The green light for some non-essential businesses to operate during the movement control order (MCO) is crucial to protect the local economy in small towns, Putrajaya says in response to criticism from several quarters over the opening of some retail outlets.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi said these include goldsmiths and jewellery stores, among more than a dozen retail sectors allowed to open during the MCO period.

He said the move would allow those in the lower income group to exchange their jewellery for much needed cash following their loss of income due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

He said the decision was made after the ministry took into account grievances from businessmen in small towns and concluded that goldsmiths are a crucial part of the local economic chain.

“They help people pawn their jewellery in exchange for cash,” Nanta told MalaysiaNow.

“They are not those who visit those expensive jewellery stores.”

Yesterday, none other than Najib Razak questioned why goldsmiths were allowed to operate despite not being included under essential services.

The former Umno president, who has emerged as the most vocal critic of the government – which includes his party – referred to a notice by leading jewellery franchise Habib Jewels telling customers it was open for business as usual.

“Essential service for whom?” Najib had asked in a Facebook post.

But Nanta said the greater beneficiaries were the common people.

“Let’s not talk about the big outlets or Habib Jewels, because there are many jewellery outlets which operate from small shops and are owned by ordinary businessmen,” he said.

“So we felt there was a need to help this group continue their transactions, which is why we allowed them to operate.

“They are not those who visit those expensive jewellery stores.”

“From the ministry’s perspective, it is not about beauty ornaments, but about helping the low-income groups.”

The MCO was reinstated this week following mounting pressure on public health facilities after months of spikes in Covid-19 cases which have so claimed close to 600 lives.

Nanta said people frequent the smaller goldsmiths for more than their personal jewellery needs.

He said the government had no choice but to extend the same permission to operate under the MCO to other shops in the same category, adding however that it was never the intention to meet the needs of the wealthy.

“From the ministry’s perspective, it is not about beauty ornaments, but about helping the low-income groups.”

Other than goldsmiths, the government also allows shopping complexes and mini marts to operate, in addition to retails stores dealing in furniture, electronics, stationery, hardware, pet food, automobile, repair and spare parts.

The authorities have however warned businesses to adhere to strict health SOPs such as the use of MySejahtera tracing app, face masks and body temperature checks at entrances.

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