Fake baby milk formula – what next?

Malaysia is one of the “most governed” countries, and yet it is also one of the most ineffective ones.

We have multiple agencies with jurisdiction over the same issue, yet whenever a fiasco happens, the first thing they do is deny responsibility or push it to another agency.

The latest episode is the health ministry evading responsibility and blaming the domestic trade, cooperatives and consumerism ministry for the fake baby milk formula sold in the market.

Before this, we had a fire at an old folks home. The first excuse issued by the local council was that the home had been operating without a permit. My question is, how did the home get to operate when it had no permit to do so?

We could say the same thing on water contamination in our catchment areas. The local councils will blame the Department of Environment and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage, while they in turn will blame others. This is the same baloney that gets repeated ad infinitum.

Just ask any businessman what they ought to do when they want to import a food item into the country. Ask them about the approval processes and the agencies they have to deal with. My estimate is there are at least three agencies and three permits or licences required.

We want to control, regulate and issue permits and licences, but we do nothing on monitoring and enforcement. So what exactly are we doing?

Let’s not attribute blame or divert responsibility. When fake baby milk formula is sneaked into the market, all related agencies are responsible, period.

We have so many regulating and enforcement agencies, but their effectiveness is nowhere to be seen. It is time to get tough with enforcement agencies. They just can’t sit there issuing licences and permits but doing nothing to monitor whatever they are entrusted to do. If violations happen right under their noses, they should be held responsible.

Issuing permits and licences must include catching those operating without permits and licences. It must also include catching those who do not meet the conditions of the permits and licences. Otherwise, to me, permits and licences serve no purpose other than creating another layer of bureaucratic hindrance.

I think the conning and cheating is getting blatant. Unscrupulous businessmen are now resorting to selling fake baby food and medicine. It is time to get tough and smack them with heavy fines and imprisonment.

But more than that, it is also time to get tough with enforcement agencies. When there is cheating and blatant violations, enforcement agencies can’t claim ignorance. Either they are very ineffective or very corrupt.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.


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