Price hikes inevitable, time to stretch your ringgit and look for bargain deals

Hospitals are an eye-opener. It is also a place where one is bound to meet someone you know and where interesting conversations take place.

The same happened when I accompanied my mum for her bi-annual check-up at the National Heart Institute on Friday. A former minister, dressed in a light blue baju Melayu, was in front of us as we made our way into the premises.

Minutes later, I bumped into veteran journalist Musa Scully. We found out that he and my mum had been seeing the same heart specialist.

There were several other familiar faces. Some were seated alone, while others were accompanied by their family members or drivers.

The one conversation that kept echoing from the lobby to the waiting area was the hike in prices of goods and basic essentials in recent times.

Semua benda naik, gaji tak naik. Macam mana mau hidup?” said a woman who was speaking to another patient.

Satu orang naik harga, semua pun ikut sama. Harga tak pernah turun, semakin naik adalah,” was the immediately reply.

There had been grouses following the increase in vegetable prices. Gardenia revealed a price revision of its bread starting Dec 1, while beer manufacturers had recently increased their prices.

The local distributor of Arai warned the prices of helmets would go up next year.

Yesterday, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Ahmad Marzuk Shaary said the cost of performing the Haj will go up by about 50 per cent next year.

Even the prices of spare parts of vehicles would increase.

So how will the average Malaysian survive, especially in such trying times?

There are various factors that contribute to price hikes. The rainy season contributes to the increase in vegetable prices. Locked borders and low productivity levels due to limited manpower could also impact the prices of goods.

But there’s also profiteering.

A classic example is the price of 1 litre of milk of a particular brand. A mini-market chain sells it for less than RM5, but I’ve seen the same brand of milk being sold close to RM7.

Even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob weighed in on the issue. On Nov 23, he reminded traders not to simply hike the prices of their goods.

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What else is pricey? Foreign labour.

My phone was also buzzing throughout my time at the hospital as friends and Twentytwo13 readers complained about the massive shortage of foreign workers. From providing security services, maids, to construction work, the inability to secure workers from abroad had resulted in foreign labourers demanding high prices and being picky with the type of jobs offered.

A contractor said his workers now demand between RM120 and RM200 per day, while those running security companies said guards wanted nothing less than RM2,000 a month, in addition to accommodation.

A Twentytwo13 reader said she had not been able to secure the services of a maid since last year.

These are real conversations about the current situation in the country. More price hikes are expected, leaving Malaysians wondering if they can afford the high living expenses. Some have been forced to fork out savings meant for retirement.

The increase in prices would eventually create a domino effect that would result in the end users digging deeper into their pockets.

Consumers need to be more mindful of the prices of goods and start searching for great bargains. If we started shopping smartly and not blindly, traders would be forced to reduce prices.

There are also good deals when one shops online. Don’t write off your neighbourhood mini markets that provide good prices for certain products compared to hypermarkets.

If you are not satisfied with the price or quality of goods or service, contact the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry via its toll-free number 1-800-886-800, or through its e-Complaint System http://e-aduan.kpdnhep.gov.my/.