Prominent retail chain owner Ameer Ali Mydin has hit out at the government for "not learning" from past practices of imposing price controls in a bid to manage the supply of basic goods, amid rising prices following a market shortage of domestic white rice.
The Mydin hypermarket boss said the government appeared to have learnt nothing from past failures, describing the move to set a ceiling price as an attempt to "please the people".
"It's havoc out there. The government somehow repeats the same mistakes. Somehow this government has not learnt," he told business station BFM today.
"The cooking oil scene is the same. The packet cooking oil, you still can't get enough supply, and obviously it is being syphoned off. Eggs – until now, you still don't have local eggs.
"The price controls are to please the rakyat, but I can assure you the rakyat is not pleased at all."
He also said the authorities need to investigate the possibility of hoarding amid the shortage of locally produced white rice.
"Where is it (local white rice)?" Ameer asked.
Last week, the government imposed a limit of 10 bags for 10kg of local white rice, amounting to a total of 100kg per customer, saying this was aimed at addressing the shortage of the staple.
Azman Mahmood, who heads the agriculture and food security ministry's rice regulatory division, said some traders were buying up to 7,000kg of local white rice.
The shortage was sparked after national padi firm Padiberas Nasional, or Bernas, increased the price of imported white rice by 36% on Sept 1, leading to a surge in demand for the cheaper local white rice.
The price of local white rice is currently controlled at RM2.60 per kg, or RM26 per 10kg bag.
Ameer said he expects the hike in imported rice to continue due to global factors.
But he said price controls would only lead to hoarding and supply shortages.
"Don't have price controls. So at least we have availability compared to non-availability," he said.
He added that the price hike for imported rice could be easily avoided as there was rampant smuggling across the borders.
"It is so easy to carry a packet of rice. Smuggling cost is RM2 for a 10kg bag, probably, across the border. In case the powers that be don't know what the market is, I can tell them this is the market rate."
He said that while he believed Bernas "probably wants to do the right thing", the government must be willing to listen.
Ameer also warned that the same problem would affect sugar due to price controls.
"Eventually, some things will break. I thought we have this political uncertainty; it's all over. Let's get our act together," he said, adding that the government should instead increase cash aid for the B40 group to cushion the effect of removing ceiling prices.