Nasi lemak vending machine plan: Bad policy with bad consequences

Here is the government again entering into business again and wiping out Makcik’s nasi lemak

Murray Hunter

Minister of Economy Rafizi Ramli’s grand People’s Income Initiative (IPR) is symbolically encapsulated in his nasi lemak vending machine initiative. The government spends money, some contractors make money, the people get a substandard product, and some poor people suffer because business is taken away from them.

The reality of the nasi lemak vending project is the exact opposite of the intention of creating an ‘eco-system’ for the poor, which would enable them to earn a long-term income. Coupling this project with farmers, who will grow chilies, which incidentally are one of the most difficult cash crops to cultivate and harvest successfully. The whole idea is sprawled with potential dangers, from packaged nasi lemak going off in the supply chain, to faulty vending machines, already widely reported, to a substandard product.

The idea is grand and visionary. However, the idea actually excludes and hurts the very people it is meant to benefit. Some young connected entrepreneurs will be helped by the ministry to extend the project, while poor Makciks in the areas these vending machines are located will potentially go out of business. Why not allocate the strategic space these vending machines are located to them.

Big questions remain unanswered about the sustainability of the new nasi lemak supply chain. A retail price of RM 2.00 must pay for the ingredients, the packaging, the labour, the transportation, the people doing the distribution, the vending machine area rental, and the amortization of the actual vending machines as well.

Fortunately for the Makciks making nasi lemak around the country, this new supply chain will not create a product of the same standard the Makciks can create, and soon lose favour with consumers. It will only take a few consumers to kena sakit perut from the nasi lemak, for the machines to be boycotted by wise consumers.

Rafizi seems hellbent on destroying small petty traders with his nasi lemak and menu Ramlah programs. Corporate and big franchise fast-food chains have been able to harness menu Ramlah, thus shutting out the petty sellers of food.

The bottom line is there are many risks the farmers will lose their crops, and the Makciks and other petty traders lose their business to Rafizi’s Eureka ideas.

Going on history, the scheme will make money for a small group of contractors for the ministry, while others suffer. Malaysia needs public policy, which has deep empathy for the Rakyat, especially the poor.

Let’s hope a nasi lemak GLC is not created.

Maybe it’s best to leave it to private enterprise that has already created a much more diverse concept. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.