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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Inflation in Malaysia

January 20, 2014
FMT LETTER: From Harun Bin Samad Said, via e-mail

Lately, there has been a lot of anger in the media and from the rakyat, especially in cyberspace, over the rising cost of living. The prices of sugar, petrol, assessment rates, bus fares, electricity tariffs, Astro, LRT fares, water rates, toll rates, vegetables, basic essentials and the soon-to-be introduced GST are all going up.

I am not saying that the anger is misdirected but one should consider analysing the situation from a more objective perspective rather than going on an all out bashing mode to justify the perceived injustice. I too feel the pinch, having to support a wife and a kid, and working as a mechanical engineer for a local oil and gas supplier.

The bus fare for my kid has gone up and so has her tuition fees. My grocery spending has increased roughly by 10-15% (or maybe that’s because we consume more as the family grows bigger). Yes, some things have gone up and that will put a dent in my wallet and all Malaysians’ wallets too.

Of all the things I wrote above, the list of things that have increased are not all accurate. For one, toll prices have not increased, yet. Yes, you heard me right. It’s Jan 20, 2014, and the price of all tolled roads in Malaysia is still the same as 2013. Many were convinced that toll prices have gone up, especially folks living out of KL because they’ve heard about KL people complaining about it so they think it is really happening.

My friend who lives in Sungai Buaya is happy because now he can travel to his workplace in Damansara Perdana in only 20 minutes. The recent interchange that was built is something that he and his community in Sungai Buaya had been fighting for a long time. People in Sungai Buaya had been praying that the interchange will finally connect them to the rest of the world with much less of the daily hassle that they have gone through.

However, when he read some blogs alleging that the interchange was only an exercise to make some people rich, he was quite disappointed. Most people don’t realise the effort the people there have put to get the interchange. MP P Kamalanathan and the community in Sungai Buaya worked hard to get this and now it is being used as a baseless issue by a blogger to undermine all their effort.

People merely throw accusations and create stories to blame certain parties without realising they hurt the genuine ones who only want to improve their livelihood. I believe we need to be rational in our anger and not be so eager to blame and accuse the government or the politicians or anyone else, for that matter.

The cost of living has gone up but is it something that is out of the ordinary that warrants cause for panic. Maybe we should consider our situation with our neighbours.

By comparing our inflation rates to those of our neighbours, we have a reference point. When we see that there is not much difference from our neighbours, perhaps it is something that is happening regionally. Inflation is hurting everyone in the Southeast Asia region and perhaps the whole world.

It is very wrong to simply blame the government when it is something far bigger. I hope Malaysians can be more objective when presenting their views and not just jump in to endorse popular sentiments.

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