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Monday, January 25, 2010

ARTICLE: An approaching nightmare: Leisure days have LONG GONE...

An approaching nightmare

BY — Lim Sue Goan,

JAN 15 — The Malaysian fuel prices in 1997 was cheaper than mineral water. The price for mineral water was RM1.50 per litre while the price for fuel was RM1.10 per litre at that time.

The country was almost as rich as Arab countries. Such a scenario was not far away but a few months later, we will have to use MyKad in order to enjoy subsidised fuel. Leisure days have long gone.

Malaysians no longer enjoy cheap fuel and sugar. It tells us that our national treasury is short of money. Factors that caused the shortage of money have been mentioned for many times.

They include mismanagement, overspending, corruption, declining petroleum revenues and economic recession.

In order to increase revenue and reduce deficit, the government has to reduce subsidies (the government will reduce RM4 billion of subsidies this year) and impose more taxes (service tax for credit cards, tax on disposal of real property, as well as the Goods and Services Tax).

Therefore, the public must be psychologically prepared to face the bitterness of price hikes.

In order to lead the country out of the current economic predicament, the government has introduced a new economic model to turn the country into a high-income economy.

Firstly, the people are still not clear about the structure of the new economic model. We only know that it is going to be a knowledge-based economy that requires the creativity of the people to develop the areas of services and technology.

In order to turn an economy relying on foreign workers into a knowledge-based economy, there must be a solid foundation and conditions, such as high value-added areas, experts and research bases. And it is impossible to be achieved overnight.

Secondly, Malaysians are lack of high standard skills, effectiveness and competitiveness. How are employees going to increase the staff’s salary? The level of income is measured based on the average.

It will be meaningless if only a small number of people are able to gain high income while the majority earn less.

It is worrying that before the increase of the average income of Malaysians, we must first bear the pain of “high costs”, including the inflation brought by subsidy reduction, as well as the possible increase of water and electricity tariffs and tolls.

In fact, Malaysians earn very low incomes. For example, the monthly basic salary for security guards is between RM350 to RM400, while factory workers earn RM480 and estate workers earn RM600 per month.

These low-income earners will starve to death in urban areas and only this year, the government announces the minimum basic salary system for security guards, private clinic assistants, estate workers and those working in the catering and hotel industry. How are we going to achieve the dream of turning the country into a high-income economy?

It is reported that more and more wage earners in Singapore enjoy luxurious life in the Iskandar special economic zone during weekends. For them, luxury houses in the economic zone is cheaper compared to a three-room apartment in Singapore and the monthly house loan is even lower than a car loan in Singapore.

Even a semi-detached or a detached house is relatively cheap compared to housing prices in foreign countries or if it is calculated with foreign exchange rates. However, wage earners in Malaysia cannot even afford a RM300,000 house, not to mention a luxurious one.

Malaysians have become “second-class people” in this piece of land because of low income.

Many people are likely to become “poor” if we have to face inflation and at the same time, pay various taxes while our incomes remain unchanged. It is an approaching nightmare for Malaysians. —




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