Budget: Hey, what about us in Egypt?

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I'm a Malaysian student currently studying in Egypt and am a JPA scholar. Very recently, starting from 2005 to be exact, the government started to send 500 students here to study medicine, some of them under JPA, some under Mara, some with the scholarships from zakat foundations and others on their own. The cost of studying here is much, much cheaper than the rest of the world, which was the main reason why the government chose to send students here.

Ever since I was in the first year, we had been getting the same amount for scholarship, never more, which was US$220 per month which translates to RM840 per month. This year, as the US currency falls, logically we should be getting more in US dollars to be the equivalent to RM840 but surprisingly, we are still getting the same US$220. The big question is: 'Where has our money gone?'

In October 2005, a JPA officer who came with the new students had a meeting with the old students to talk about our allowances and announced a raise of US$40. However, in the end after all the calculations were worked out, it only amounted to a raise of US$3. If you ask me, even in a poor country like Egypt, people will laugh when they know that your government gave you a raise of US$3 per month.

So it was with keen attention that JPA students in Egypt listened to the announcement of the 2008 Budget, with hopefulness in their eyes. Maybe the government was thinking of raising our allowance monies. Imagine our shock when Pak Lah announced that the allowances for JPA students in Egypt, New Zealand and some other countries would remain the same as they had been already been raised last year! I'm not sure whether it's just me, or us, but seriously, we didn't notice this 'raise'.

Egypt, as a developing country, is hit worse than other countries when it comes to economic turmoil. Prices of essential goods have shot up over the past five years. A kilo sugar which used to be LE2.50 (RM1.55) is now LE3.50 (RM2.15) and let's not even talk about milk, rice, chicken, meat and flour. Inflation is close to 50% and yet we are still getting the same amount of scholarship JPA students got 30 years ago.

We need the raise, we truly need the raise and we have the right to get it. But instead of getting it, Pak Lah is saying that the allowances have already been raised previously. Are people up there trying to brainwash us into believing something which is not real? It may work with some but not with all.

Maybe the real problem is that in Egypt we don't have a somebody's daughter or son coming so it doesn't matter if they don't raise our allowances. Nobody will say a word. Thank you, Mr Budget Maker for taking care of your children first, and making sure that they get their good night's sleep even if it is at the expense of other people. Your 'hard work' is truly appreciated.

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