Spiralling cost of living and the daily struggles of the common man

The cost of living for the common man in Malaysia has skyrocketed.

The food bill for a family of four has increased by a minimum of 30 per cent. For the same family, the three major meals of the day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – would set them back by at least RM50. That comes up to RM1,500 a month.

This does not include rent or house instalments, petrol, and car instalments, which could add up to another RM1,500, not counting expenses for school-going children and other contingencies.

As such, this family would need at least RM4,000 a month to survive.

The rural community may spend less with regard to shelter, transportation, and fresh produce, but they, nevertheless, do feel the pinch of high prices of other necessities.

Higher prices impact both the urban and rural communities.

Before, the average man or woman could rely on affordable hawkers’ food for their meals. But their prices have also increased by between 30 and 50 per cent.

For example, the average price of two chapatis with gravy used to be RM4. It has now gone up to RM6.

Likewise, pancakes (apom kosong and apom telur), roti canai kosong and telur, nasi lemak, and even drinks, have seen an increase in their prices.

And the servings have gotten smaller.

Even fast-food outlets have increased their prices.

They all blame this on the rising cost of materials and ingredients.

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry has been ineffective in stemming the rising prices of basic necessities, despite their intermittent efforts at price control. Thus far, they have been fighting a losing battle, perhaps because of the lack of a cohesive, strategic action plan.

As such, the ministry has had minimal impact in controlling price increases.

Likewise, the various consumers’ associations in Malaysia have not made any dent in reining in the price increases. They are more rhetorical, rather than action-oriented, and have not been able to galvanise the populace to counter the price increases of necessities or even to engage the relevant government departments.

These associations are supposed to be a watchdog for the people. Sadly, they are just watching, and not doing much else.

At the same time, the people should also bear some of the blame for the lack of civic consciousness to engage in a common cause to benefit everyone.

There are many who believe that “this does not affect me, so I don’t need to care”.

Such a selfish attitude provides a fertile ground for exploitation by various quarters, including politicians. Thus, an unconcerned and disorganised electorate is a recipe for disaster for the people.

It makes it easier for the government and big industry to exploit the people and implement policies that benefit big corporations and those in power.

Look at how certain government agencies were allegedly manipulated and mismanaged to benefit certain individuals and politically connected corporate entities.

This haemorrhaging of the peoples’ coffers through corruption and fiscal mismanagement leaves the rakyat unable to curb the rising cost of living.

The people’s needs do not receive the same priority and urgency as those of the politicians and their parties.

It is only during the election that the peoples’ needs take centre stage in their manifestos, as evident in the run-up to the recent Johor elections.

The political parties tripped over themselves to be the peoples’ champion, as they promised jobs, money, clean governance, and opportunities for the betterment of the peoples’ lives.

Such pronouncements seem to be stranger than fiction. This is part of the game they play to grab power. They think nothing of spending hundreds of millions of the people’s money on unnecessary elections, which they unashamedly, and arrogantly, say are for the betterment of the people’s lives.

The money spent on these elections could have been better used to help the people.

As with previous election promises, the peoples’ lives will remain the same, if not regress after the polls, because of the corrupted governance that favours the politicians and the elites over the rakyat.

The poverty index has spiralled, evidenced by the difficulty of the B40 to make ends meet. There is nothing worse than seeing these charlatan politicians strutting around trying to ingratiate themselves with the common man with their false piety, humility, and altruism, when in fact, it’s really to dupe the electorate to elect them to office.

To alleviate the peoples’ predicament, there is a need for contingency plans to increase financial reserves in times of prosperity through prudent fiscal management. The monies can be disbursed to those in need during times of adversity, as well as to generate a climate that is conducive to economic activities through a well-thought-out stimulus package.

However, this would need capable people, preferably selfless technocrats, to run the country.

In addition, there is a dire need to reconfigure governance and for the economy to open up avenues that would allow equal opportunity in wealth creation and distribution.

Otherwise, the future for the average family and their children looks bleak.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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