Thursday, June 18, 2009

Driven Out Of Our Wallet. Remember Anwar and Shabri Chik debate 2008? I wrote this for Joe Kiddd's Ricecooker 2006. Check the argument.

I have just bought a car a few months ago, well, not a new one, it’s a ‘year 2002′, second-hand Wira Aeroback, a national ‘cheap-second-hand’ ride! Well actually, there were so many opinions I sought before I end up with the second hand. Some of my seniors suggested that I should buy a brand new one instead, as I happen to know nothing much about car maintenance. But considering that my paycheck is ‘peanut’ and the monthly instalments for new cars are like well, y’know, and what with the current price of gas skyrocketing, phew! I’m glad that I’ve bought it. Besides it has a Waja steering wheel. Well, that’s a plus isn’t it? Heheh!
I mean, the gas price is totally crazy[i], at least for a person who has to travel quite a far bit to work everyday like me. As I’m writing this, I’ve spent about RM340 for gas alone and today is merely the 23rd. Crazy! To look at it, I do think that Malaysians have the ‘right’ to be irritated. There’s logic in all the noises of discontent out there over the price hike. Isn’t Petronas an oil company, and when the price goes up, the profit goes up too right? So it’s like floating. So what’s with 4.4 billion of subsidy when Petronas is gaining a lot more? Besides, aren’t Petronas’ oil is ours too?
But I think, people in high places do know what’s best for the country. Like, a hundred million compensation for immaterialised Indah Bridge is better than selling our honour right? Or 300 million tax payers’ money for few days of Monsoon Cup is a good investment for the tourism industry, or Telekom Malaysia paying almost 700 million ($232 mil) to the Germany’s Deutsche Telekom[ii] over mistakes in writing the contract is good for… errr… well, a good lesson that we should prepare our contracts properly the next time perhaps? Am I right?
But, let’s see, the combination of those payments, plus other ‘peripheral’ unnecessary spending can reach up to billions. So what with 4.4 billion RENGGET? Sometimes I hope that Ahmedinejad knew what he was talking about when he’s talking big, saying that the Yanks will never ram Iran, because the famous outspoken president, Hugo Chavez[iii] had warned that such attack will lead the oil price will go up to USD100 a barrel. But no worry, now that we’ve got biofuel, we can even get fuel out of ‘sugar cane’![iv] Yeyy! The Brazilians will be very happy and Castro and the Cubans[v] will be filthy rich!!
Seriously, that’s why I’m glad that I could save a lot from the cheap instalments for my Proton. But I can’t help thinking sometimes that is it better if we don’t have a national car to protect? I mean, we used to taxed up to 200% for foreign cars, and still our national cars aren’t that cheap. Well, I’m into compact cars, and I’m a bit surprised to see the list of prices for foreign cars without tax. Imagine Chevy Aveo costs only about RM29,000, and Hyundai Getz is only 21k++[vi], both are cheaper than my second hand Proton. Well, our neighbour up north don’t have a national car of their own, but I heard the Thais could drive a Honda Civic for less than ‘truckin’ 40 thousand! No, I don’t want to talk about AP.
The average Malaysians earn what, RM1,500? 2,000? And the average monthly car instalment is what? Say RM500 - RM800. So it means, we spend one third or one fourth of the average Malaysians’ income for cars alone, every month! One third man, imagine that! Is that good for economy?
Sometimes I pity us Malaysians. We always tend to pay more or carry a heavier burden than we’re supposed to. Look at our health system for example; the public doctors have to bear the massive workload while earning RM4 to 12k a month while the private doctors earn 10k to 100,000 a month. Instead of employing more doctors, the government have gone and purchases drugs from ‘a particular’ company which charge up, mark up the prices up to 1000 per cent! Imagine that! 1000%. That’s because the Ministry Of Health cannot buy those medical supplies by open tender; but only from a particular selected company.
And so it goes with other services such as cleaning, maintenance, clinical waste management etc. as these were privatised and awarded to few connected companies. Yeah we’ve got the free government hospitals but those are being paid by taxpayers money, and the national medical bills had gone up to the ceiling and, a while ago they were talking about resurrecting a national health financing scheme and, guess what? It means that one day free medical is not going to free for everybody no more. Sigh![vii]
How about the electrical tariff? Why should some of us have to pay more while the Independent Power Producers enjoy more or less 70% of processed gas from Petronas and 55% out of the total amount of the subsidies go to the IPP (TNB only had 45%), and TNB is forced to buy it from them. Get what I mean? But anyway, thanks for letting 60% of the consumers unaffected, otherwise I would surely pack my stuff, move to a mountain somewhere and become a hippie!
Seriously, I really pity us Malaysians. The average Malaysians are not those who are with three TVs and two cars for every family. We are not like that yet. I have written about this somewhere before and I’m writing this again[viii]. Believe it or not, most of us are underpaid. Most of us are poor. I’m not a man of statistics and I’m not going to compare our cost of living with others, but most of us are poor.
Some of us tend to define poverty as how our TV portrays and defines poverty in Malay dramas: a family living in fishing villages, or farmer families living by the paddy fields, y’know, the typical kampung poverty. But TV fails to portray that, in urban cities like KL, poverty exists. I’m not referring to beggars near Kotaraya or setinggan dwellers in Kerinchi, but those who live in small apartments, crowded flats with two rooms, single mother with five kids, wives who are not working for extra money but the husbands could not provide sufficiently for the whole household. That’s poverty too. But you’ll see none of them in Bersamamu on TV3[ix].
Now look at this, with RM600+ for a car instalment and RM250 for gas, how much money would be left for mortgage, rents, bills, credit cards, kids schooling etceteras, especially for the average Malaysian who earn, say, RM1800 a month? Well, you do the math!
As for me, I might need some extra cash this month for I have overspent. Maybe I’ll look for a part time job or something. Anyway, I think it’s time for me to stop - that is before some of you realize, how so full of ‘Super Hero In Training’[x] I am talking about this stuff like I know what I’m talking about. But hey, maybe I’m proud to be one, and maybe I can make extra money out of that. Call me, a ‘proud-part-time-excreementalist’. Well that sounds good. Haha!
Talking about poverty and about being broke, a friend of mine just bought a cool T-shirt the other day, y’know the type of T-shirt that has cool catchy words on it. Well this one says… “I’m so broke I can’t even pay attention’. Haha, that’s a good one! OK then, Peace!
[i] Reffering to the recent increase in oil prices.[ii] Asia News report, here[iii] Chavez, interviewed in London, Taken from Siasah 19 Mei-1 Jun 2006.[iv] Fuel from extracted alcohol-ethanol — hydrous and anhydrous alcohol, discovered by a Brazillian.[v] The Cuban economy used to depend on the production of sugarcane.[vi] From a copy of “CUSTOMS ACT 1967 CUSTOMS (VALUES OF IMPORTED COMPLETELY BUILT-UP MOTOR VEHICLES) (NEW) ORDER 2006”.[vii] Pillay, Subramaniam. Can we Afford to Fall Sick, Aliran Monthly 2005: Vol25 N0:4[viii] written for Coalition Fanzine, about the use of Credit Cards or something[ix] A popular reality show that proves Malaysians really love emotional programs. Remember Jejak Kasih?[x] A wrestling character, watch the acronym - no, I don’t like wrestling.

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