YB Dato’ Saifuddin Nasution

Minister of Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs

The newly appointed Head of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (MDTCA) can be described as many things: impassioned, meticulous, determined and a man who knows what he wants to leave behind from his time in administration.

Instead of heavy reliance on foreign imports from years before, YB Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution wants to be a game-changer. He tells International Business Review of his plans to improve the welfare of Malaysia’s poorest citizens, his intention to increase consumer protection and his ambition to nurture the growth of big businesses to ensure long-term success in the domestic trade sector.

The Zero-Waste Policy

“I am very passionate about welfare and what I can do to empower the people.” The ministry has previously said they were in the process of drawing up a policy to distribute excess food from various hypermarkets and supermarkets to needy families. Datuk Seri Saifuddin states that it is this ‘Zero Waste Program that he is most excited about, going back to his younger years as the strategic officer to the then Chief Minister of Penang.

“On May 1 in 2017, I started a food bank program with a good number of volunteers, where we collected food surplus from supermarkets, hypermarkets, food outlets and hotels. We would then go door-to-door to distribute this food to the much poorer families in the region. 17,000 families benefited from this program and I am very determined to keep this going.”

“I am very determined to start it on a national level, and start it quickly!” Datuk Seri Saifuddin’s determination for his ministry to help its most disadvantaged citizens involves MDTCA engaging with and forming strategic partnerships with 12 hypermarkets and supermarkets, including industry giants like Giant, Tesco, Lulu KL and Aeon. The ministry’s strategy will be to collect the large amounts of food surplus these markets naturally throw away when not needed and place it in a collection centre, where they will identify the poorest families that require them most.

“If I can collect a food surplus of fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that would be worth about RM20 for poor families, this is a 20 ringgit they don’t have to spend when they go to night markets. The money they save will go to creating more disposable income that they then can spend on other necessary items, be it for themselves or their families.” Datuk Seri Saifuddin believes that, with numerous countries like Turkey, US, Fance and Germany implementing their own variations of this policy, it’s a very workable idea in the Malaysian context and is willing to work hard to ensure its success. Of all the proposals put forth by the ministry during parliament sessions, Datuk Seri Saifuddin revealed it was this program that excited the Prime Minister most, foreseeing good news for the futures of poor families all across the nation.

Maintaining Consumer Safety

Datuk Seri Saifuddin is also resolute and firm in his protection of consumer rights. In the face of price fluctuations and monopoly powers, MDTCA is determined to strictly enforce existing regulations like the Consumer Protection Act 1999 and the Price Control Order 1993 that increases transparency with the prices of goods, guaranteeing that consumers make more informed decisions with their spending. MDTCA also seeks to be more relevant with their complaints responses by providing consumers with 11 channels to send their criticisms, including email, a better hotline and even smartphone apps like EzAdu KPDNKK.

With 2,300 officers in their enforcement department making up 60% of the total people in MDTCA, Datuk Seri Saifuddin wants the people to rest assured that they are committed to making consumers comfortable and will utilise all weapons at their disposal to do just that. MDTCA will also reactivate the National Action Council on Cost of Living (NACCOL) to serve as the main body that will address issues and challenges that affect the rakyat’s well-being.

The ministry will be the main secretariat that focuses on cost of living issues within Malaysia that include housing, education, transportation, utility, health and food. Datuk Seri Saifuddin is very motivated to address many of these issues and is working to better resolve them with cooperation from the ministries responsible for each sector.

MDTCA has also looked into the possibility of doing away with monopolies in favour of a more competitive national economy. While it comes off as a controversial issue for both businessmen and laypeople, International Business Review gets a more nuanced perspective from Datuk Seri Saifuddin. “While we agree that monopoly powers or being dominant in an economic landscape is not necessarily bad, what we are against is of power being abused to manipulate and suppress competitors, at the expense of the rakyat at large.”

There have been talks of setting up a special cabinet committee which will be given the role of advising the cabinet on whether to stop or continue a monopoly project, based on how fair it is to businesses and the people, with assistance from the Malaysia Competition Commission (MyCC) who are already in the midst of reviewing particular sectors with monopolistic practices in their activities. With the Commission taking actions against companies like MyEG Services Berhad and Dagang Net Technologies as MDTCA simultaneously looks into other monopolies like Farmaniaga, Puspakom and BERNAS, Datuk Seri Saifuddin has bright hopes for a more competitive economy, brimming with potential for its people.

"If I can collect a food surplus of fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that would be worth about RM20 for poor families. The money they save will go to creating more disposable income that then can spend on other necessary items." 

Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution, Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Tweet

It is not hard to place your trust in Datuk Seri Saifuddin’s hands. His previous experience from working with the most marginalised groups of society has made him perceive and empathise with the struggle of the rakyat even more. It has become a personal mission for the man. “We will immediately take action” is a feeling he emphasises throughout our conversation and we are looking forward to see the legacies of the policies by Datuk Seri Saifuddin in the near future.