My favorite personal moments in life now seems to be confined within the timeline of 10pm till 3am. Sitting on my balcony chair and having a slow smoking cigar, I have the luxury of time and the quiet of the night to reflect on the happenings of the day and to gather my thoughts on my plans for tomorrow. I write best during these hours, free of interference especially on the need of having a conversation with my wife.
When one has too much free time, the mind wanders freely picking up random issues in life to gripe about, be it daily happenings that affects your life or politics that affects the economy.
The key question in my mind is always about the motives behind the actions and the motivation that drives such actions.
My gripe today is about plastic bags. Yes it is about the availability of plastic bags to place my purchases when I shop at my favorite supermarket in Bangsar. Earlier this month, this supermarket completely stopped making available plastic bags at the check out counter in their campaign to save the planet.
When the government made a decision some years back to force consumers to pay 20 cents for a plastic bag (which costs a few cents), supermarkets all over the country rejoiced at the prospect of turning cost into profits besides saving the planet as well. My favorite supermarket introduce recyclable bags which was a great campaign as I see many shoppers especially housewives bringing these bags for their shopping trips.
As I am not a househusband, I would normally go straight to the supermarket from my office to pick up some groceries without any recyclable bags. Consumers are now familiar with the question from the check out counter cashier “ Do you want to use plastic bag” to place your products? I would normally be glad to pay for the 5-10 plastic bags which incidentally are recycled at home, used in the many small garbage bin receptacles in my house.
In this instant two weeks ago, I was faced with the dilemma of not having the choice of buying the plastic bags as the supermarket made the decision to force consumers to use recyclable bags if they want to shop in their supermarket. The cashier pointed out to me the availability of 5 different deigns and sizes of recyclable bags besides her checkout counter which costs between RM 3.80 to RM19.90 per bag.
Being a griping old man and a regular customer to boot, I stood my ground and insisted that they provide me with a proper means of carriage for my RM700 worth of vegetables, meat and bottled plastic drinks. They scrambled and found 3 used cartons from their back room as I was holding up the queue. I had to apologize to the mother and son waiting behind me who incidentally is not aware of this new policy and did not bring any recyclable bags too.
This incident begs the question on the real motives behind the management decision to implement a ‘no plastic bag’ policy in a supermarket. If it is to save the planet, then the consumers should be offered a cheaper alternative (like brown paper bags) to the high priced recyclable bags. Instead the consumers are given less choices and at a much higher price too. If their motive is genuine, sell the recyclable bags at a loss or at cost and consider it as a CSR project.
This smacks of profiteering in the name of saving the planet. It looks as if the profit from selling the plastic bags is insufficient to cover their bonuses. I have shopped in Tesco and Sainsbury in London and I had the choice of paying 20 pence for a much sturdier plastic bag. Consumers should not be inconvenienced when they shop at retail stores. Customer service 101. Duh.
It seems that I am not the only one griping about motives. In a press conference a few days ago by Industries Unite, which is a coalition of 110 trade associations with 3.3 million business owners, they were griping about the motives behind the recently announced RM10,000 and RM50,000 fine on violations of the SOP guidelines on wearing masks and social distancing.
With a genuine motive of preventing the spread of COVID 19, the government banned inter state traveling and implemented tight guidelines on social distancing and family gatherings especially during Chinese New Year. Permission was given to celebrate reunion dinners for family members who stay in the same house. I scratched my head on that one. What next? Seek permission to use the toilet in my house? This is taking the ‘big brother’ watching over you a wee bit teeny too far, I must say.
Anyway, Industries Unite demanded some answers from the government. They questioned the motives behind the high fines set by the government which is detrimental to the business owners who are already suffering from poor business for the last 12 months. Poor communication and poor planning has led to haphazard implementation by enforcement agencies.
They question the legality of the fines, the interpretation of the SOP guidelines by various state agencies and PDRM and the flawed design of the SOP’s without consulting the business community. This high handed approach is detrimental to the revival of the economy.
Beside the fines, other government agencies like HRDF have asked for increased contribution from the business community despite the fact that most companies are already in ICU fighting for survival. It is tantamount to extracting blood from a dengue patient with a dangerously low blood count of 4.
There seems to be a disconnect between the government of the day and the civil service with the business community in the current prevailing state of the failing economy. The government and civil servants tend to forget that their operating expenditure comes from income taxes derived from employment of individuals and corporate profits.
Instead of giving a helping hand to the fallen, they are adding additional cuts and wounds besides the occasional punches and kicks to the business men lying on sick beds. Other than ego and sense of power, I failed to understand the real motives behind such flawed decisions.
Now our Ministers are contemplating removing the inter state traveling for the coming Hari Raya festivities. I am just wondering what the new SOP’s will be like. Maybe we will finally understand the real motives behind the great politician minds of our generation.
Get well soon everyone.
*Views expressed here are the writer’s own.