Give bazaar traders a chance to generate income during MCO

Source: Berita Harian

E-Bazaar: Grab is on standby, the small business traders are ready, what about the Perak government?

11 April 2020

The Prime Minister just announced the government’s decision to extend the Movement of Control Order (MCO) to 28 April 2020. I understand that this step is inevitable for the sake of the rakyat’s health and safety all over the country.

The reality is that we are at war with an invisible enemy; one that attacks silently and on the sly, and the victim is only aware of it after becoming a casualty of war, after it has collapsed from the impact and from an injury that cannot be treated.

According to statistics, there are 2755 night market license holders just in Ipoh City alone, and based on last year’s statistics, 1536 of them were Ramadhan bazaar traders and hawkers. They and many others all over the country are bound to experience further hardship, anxiety, and suffering; same goes for traders from the farmers’ markets and the morning markets. They have lost a source of income to support themselves and their families ever since the MCO was enforced. In fact, a few states have already taken a firm stance that Ramadhan bazaars will not be allowed to run, while other states have indicated the same should the MCO continue.

Before this, most food traders were hoping that the Ramadhan bazaars would compensate for their losses of the past few months as a result of COVID19, however their hope grows dim with each passing day. The same fate that has befallen them has also befallen food sellers at night markets, especially with the announcement that the MCO has been extended.

There are some night market traders who have started exploring innovative ways in order to adapt with the latest developments. They have started selling their products online through Facebook Live; and modified their businesses and themselves to face and overcome the challenges ahead. However, this is only limited to those who sell products that can be delivered by post.

Unfortunately, food sellers are not able to utilize technology to change their fate. To date, the regulations outlined by FoodPanda and Grab Food require any parties who intend to register as vendors to have fixed premises.

However, a light has shone at the end of the tunnel after the Selangor state government announced its cooperation with GrabFood in setting up an E-Bazaar to assist food traders and hawkers as Ramadhan approaches. The question is, would the same group of traders in Perak also be taken care of? Will the Perak state government follow in these footsteps?

I had the opportunity to hold discussions with senior officers from GrabFood who have been tasked with this special E-bazaar project. GrabFood has given a commitment that the same operating model they have created in cooperation with the Selangor state government is also ready to be implemented in Perak, or any other states for that matter. However, this requires the undivided commitment, intention, coordination, and cooperation from both state authorities and local authorities.

I am also pleased to inform that the operating model for the utilization of public and multipurpose halls to centralize traders and hawkers, the deployment of enforcement officers, and social distancing procedures for traders, hawkers, and those in the food delivery industry have been approved by the Ministry of Health. All of these matters require decision-making and strong implementation on the part of state authorities and local authorities.

As we are only two weeks away from the month of Ramadhan, GrabFood would need both state authorities and local authorities to supply it with the list of licensed traders and hawkers for the registration process of those who are eligible. This registration process is necessary to comply with the terms that Bank Negara has imposed on GrabFood.

Those in power should be acutely aware of the fact that the rakyat are facing terrible hardships. Therefore, the government should increase its readiness in handling the crisis at every level. Let’s not just leave our fate to the federal government alone. The rakyat have patiently endured various forms of hardship and economic crisis before this. Oftentimes they have had to be self-sufficient.    

Now, they’re desperate for their lives to return to normal as soon as possible. Thus, in the midst of the chaos of our war against the coronavirus today, all leaders have the responsibility to set aside any political affiliations and cooperate with one another. I myself am ever ready to facilitate arrangements with Grab, however the onus still lies on the government to make the decision and act on what is right.  

Howard Lee Chuan How
DAP Perak Committee Member
DAPSY National Chief

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