SIBU: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s aspiration to turn Malaysia into a high-income generating nation may very well be facing its stiffest test in Sabah and Sarawak where soaring prices of basic necessities and low salaries are leaving citizens and NGOs angry and worried.
“Who is fixing these prices… don’t they know what is happening here?” asked a frustrated housewife here.
Groaning under the weight of increased prices of fuel, kerosene, sugar, flour, rice, oil and now onions, she told FMT that it was becoming difficult to juggle her housekeeping budget.
“The government says the increase is small but in Sarawak it is different. We are paying so much more for cooking items… I don’t know how to manage anymore,” she said, citing the price of onions which has soared to RM16 a kilogram here.
Yesterday, the Sarawak Teachers Union (STU) became the first NGO to slam the government’s inability to contain the spiralling price of onions.
Urging the government to immediately include onions as a controlled item, STU president Willian Ghani said: “Onions are an essential item in every household.
“The current price of RM16 per kilogram is too high. The hike is a huge burden not only to teachers but also those in the lower income bracket in particular.
“Those in the lower income group are already struggling to make ends meet, and the hike will compound their woes.
“The government must subsidise this essential item. The price is way too high,” Ghani said.
He also said that the increasing prices of goods and services were not in tandem with the income of the people at large.
“Salaries are not in tandem with the rising costs… it will burn a hole in their pockets, he said.
Sibu Petty Traders Association chairman Kong Hua Kuang admitted that price of essentials had indeed shot up in Sarawak.
Citing onions, he said the “unusually” high price was partly due to insufficient supply and increasing cost of transport.
“Demand has increased because of the festive periods but we are not getting enough supply,” he said.
Following the government’s latest round of increases – fuel and kerosene – FMT’s ground teams in Sabah and Sarawak reported on the adverse effect the “small” increase had in the lives of rural folk in both these states.
In rural Sarawak, a 10-sen increase for kerosene had catapulted the cost of this everyday essential to RM4.50 or more a litre because of logistics.
The bulk of Sarawak’s 6,000 longhouses have no water or electricity and they are dependent on kerosene for light and cooking.
In neighbouring oil-rich Sabah, which incidentally is the country’s poorest state, the federal government’s pullback on susbidies and increased cost of fuel had resulted in rural families having only two meals a day and children being deprived of school. - FMT