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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Chicken no longer finger lickin’ good

Chicken, electricity and maybe petrol prices on the way up. It will not be long before more Malaysians end up in debt by taking up personal loans.
COMMENT
Usually before any major festival, the price of chicken will go up but this time more than ever, it has gone up tremendously so much so that it has become an issue among consumers.
The BN federal government has set the ceiling price for chicken at RM7.70 but this has not been of much help as the price of other foodstuffs namely fish, vegetables, meat and the dried foodstuffs (garlic and small onions) have also gone up by leaps and bounds.
All these increases occurred immediately after the 13th general election and the way it occurred seems to be as if the prices were just waiting for GE13 to be over in order to wreck their wrathful vendetta on the helpless citizens.
Currently the government is unable to curb the price rise. Instead, the Minister for Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism, Hasan Malek has instructed consumers to stop eating chicken and switch to fish and meat.
That statement was pooh-poohed by consumers who complained that prices of all types of food including tin food had gone up and could one forego eating?!
In street interviews conducted by this columnist, many of those from the low-income group vented their anger at those who had voted for BN in GE13 by saying “Those who had voted for BN made us suffer as well. Yes, this is BN’s great thank-you gift to the rakyat for giving them the mandate.”
(Three of the interviewees who furnished their names were a lady named Awanis Rashid and two guys named Adhwa Roslan and Syahril Ismail.)
While civil servants receive their perks and bonuses, those who belong to the low-income group in the private sector were plainly unhappy at the constant rise in prices as they struggle to cope with the ever-increasing cost of living.
PAS Pokok Sena MP, Mahfuz Omar urged the government to curb the price rise. He also said that the minister’s statement to the public to stop eating chicken is only meant to absolve the latter from his own responsibility and helplessness.
So much for the chicken controversy.
Higher power bills
Another area where the rise in the cost of living is going to hurt the rakyat is none other than the rise in electricity tariffs when the government reduces its subsidies for this utility.
The announcement for the rise in tariffs was made on July 18.
Said Mahfuz: “The rakyat will have to pay for the rise in electricity tariffs not only for domestic use but also for industrial use when the price of products go up due to the increase in production costs which will eventually be passed on to the end-user, namely us the citizens”.
Once electricity tariffs shoot up, the price of all other things and services will follow suit. Of course one cannot expect the prices of goods to stay the same forever but the rise in electricity tariffs could have been curtailed if not for some cronyism involved here.
Definitely the government seems unable to stem the sky-rocketting price of goods. What about RON95 petrol? Already there are rumours going round that the price of RON95 will go up by at least 30 sen by early next year the latest.
Chicken, electricity and maybe petrol. It will not be long before more Malaysians end up in debt by taking up personal loans.
Mahfuz remarked that the slogan of ‘People First’ as espoused by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak is very true when it is the “people who must be the first to bear the rising cost of living as the government is always ever-ready and ever-willing to dip their hands into the rakyat’s pockets.”
Therefore it is not wrong to say that surely there is some mismanagement somewhere when the citizens are constantly being made to face price increases every now and then.
High cost of living
One of this columnist’s friends who is earning RM2,500 a month and whose wife is a homemaker with three children is struggling to make ends meet as he has to fork out RM700 monthly to pay the house rent.
Another friend mentioned that he spent RM50 in less than an hour when he bought a gas cylinder for RM28, meat for RM20 and the PAS newsletter Harakah for RM2. And that’s it. All RM50 used up in a jiffy.
Many things in Malaysia are costly and RM1,000 cannot go far. Even a bowl of noodles in a run-down Chinese coffee-shop costs at least RM5 these days.
A paperback book costs 6 pounds sterling in UK but it costs RM35.90 here. In UK, 50 pounds sterling can still buy a lot of groceries but in Malaysia not at all. Dollar for dollar, we have to fork out notes in big numbers.
Although this write-up sounds like a piece of grumbling and complaining, it is nonetheless the voice of all those interviewed who had told this columnist: “Sila tulis bahawa harga barang kini sudah menjerut leher.” (Please write that the price of goods these days are already garroting the neck.)
In Brazil this year there has been massive street protests against the hike in public transport fares, poor public healthcare and the greatest of all evils: corruption.
In Malaysia too we are battling against these same evils. We still have a very long way to go before becoming a First World nation. Is it an impossible dream?
Selena Tay is a DAP member and a FMT columnist.

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