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Be politician for the people, restaurateurs tell Rafizi on price hikes

They say that they, too, have been struggling with the increase in cost of goods, as well as employee salaries and rental.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli. Photo: Bernama
Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli. Photo: Bernama

Industry players and restaurant operators have expressed disappointment with recent remarks by Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli about the cost of living and price of goods. 

Rafizi had urged the public to boycott businesses that do not lower the price of goods and food. 

But Ameer Ali Mydin, the managing director of Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd, said there had been no let-up in the price of basic items used in cooking. 

Instead, he said, there had been a price increase of between 5% and 15% over the past year, including for goods such as cooking oil, sugar, flour, rice and Milo packet drinks. 

As for the price of fresh produce like vegetables and fish, he said, this fluctuates based on weather and season. 

"If the minister says the price of goods has gone down, I leave it to him because he knows more than we do," Ameer said. 

"So he can tell us which raw goods have gone down in price. Then Malaysians can go and check for themselves." 

Meanwhile, Syed Jamarul Khan, the managing director of the Syed Bistro Restaurant chain, described Rafizi's call for customers to boycott expensive restaurants as irrelevant. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said consumers had the right to choose for themselves. 

"If a customer feels that the prices at a restaurant are too high, they are free to choose a cheaper option," he said. 

"The goods for cooking aren't the same either," he added. "Each restaurant will have different costs and portion sizes. 

"You can't make a blanket comparison." 

Rafizi was criticised last week for saying that the government was unable to intervene in the increase in food prices at restaurants and eateries, and asking for the public's cooperation in "reprimanding" premises which fail to lower their prices. 

Syed Jamarul said it would be better for consumers to choose offers that they consider worthwhile than for them to be told to boycott restaurants. 

He added that cheaper goods are not necessarily better. 

"Which is more worth it? This is the important factor," he said. 

In fact, he said, Malaysia's food prices are far lower than anywhere else in the world. 

"Don't even talk about Singapore," he said. "And in Indonesia, a plate of rice and a cup of coffee is already RM20 and above. 

"Of course restaurants will be more expensive. You can't compare restaurant food to street food. 

"The fact is, if you want food that tastes good and is worth it, you will have to pay a bit more. If you want something cheaper, there are options for this as well." 

Syed Jamarul said operating costs had also increased following the spike in rental after the Covid-19 situation. 

Salary payments for workers likewise went up with the implementation of the new minimum wage order of RM1,500 per month. 

"Even if our workers received RM1,500 to begin with, we had to give them a raise in order to make things fair," Syed Jamarul said. 

"The management had to give the same raise to everyone." 

Ameer meanwhile said he was facing the same issues of rental and salary increases. 

"Don't be corporate politicians," he said. "Be politicians for the people."