COMMENT Now that the BN has tabled the Budget for 2017 what can the average Malaysian expect?
First of all, I must say that I am not an economist. I do not have fancy charts and figures to throw out. But I have my fingers on the pulse of the market - both the share market, and the pasar tani which my wife goes to. And this is what I can tell from feeling the pulse of these two markets.
In this first part, I shall focus on the pasar tani and shopping malls which every Malaysian has to go to.
For the average Malaysian I can predict that 2017 is going to be a hard year, a much harder year than 2016. Possibly the worst that the average Malaysian has yet had to experience in terms of coping with his or her own household budget!
This is not simply because the recovery in oil and other commodity prices is slow and there is a global economic slowdown. It is because the years of Barisan Nasional lavish expenditure and alleged big time corruption and wastage have finally caught up with this spentthrift government.
In the past, there was always fat dividends from Petronas to bail us out and to provide subsidies for various consumer necessities. This helped bring down the cost of living. But this is clearly no longer the case. Subsidies have been slashed and although the government has provided some relief through the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M) cash handout, the rakyat must accept that the cost of living will steadily worsen.
This grim scenario facing Malaysian families all over the country is due to the incompetency and irresponsibility of the current BN government in managing the national budget during its time in power, and especially since the past 10 years.
What is happening now is that what the government is giving out through BR1M, it is taking back through the the Goods and Services Tax (GST). One hand gives out some money to some members of the public - RM6.8 billion.
There is plenty of noise and publicity over it on TV3. But don’t forget - the other BN hand takes back MR40 billion in GST taxes from all members of the public to make up for the leakage, corruption, wastage, and inefficiency in the management of the national budget.
I am among many Malaysians who initially gave the benefit of the doubt to government when it decided to introduce the GST. This, we all assumed, would broaden our tax base and make us financially more resilient. I could not have been more wrong.
Firstly the GST introduction has resulted in price rises not of 6 percent as the government promised but much higher. Before the covernment introduced the GST, I remember some of the ministers claiming that price rises would be reasonable and arguing that the BN government and its consultans were expecting consumers to benefit from lower prices. They also cited examples of other countries such as New Zealand where the GST impact was negligible.
Well, it has turned out to be one big mess and one big bluff over the GST in Malaysia.
GST means more suffering for Malaysians
If you go out to the market and check on pre- and post-GST prices, I can bet that there has not been one single consumer item out of thousands in which we have seen a price increase limited to 6 per cent, let alone a price drop. What we have seen instead is price increases in the order of 20 percent and 30 percent and even more.
Why did the promised affordable and gradual price increase not come about? What has gone wrong with GST implementation? Who is benefiting from this squeezing of the consumer wallet especially of the middle class if not 1MDB and the crooks and cronies that have looted our national budget?
Some of the worst affected households in this coming year will be Malays and others with many young family members. Imagine the impact on them when the cooking oil subsidy disappears and when the prices of food, clothes, educational supplies and other household essentials rise because of our depreciating ringgit. For now, the ringgit has stabilised a little but if it goes down further, I predict the average Malaysian will have his budget in the red - bright red!
I hope the opposition parties - including PAS - will focus on the issues I have raised here and pay attention to them in the election run-up as there are predictions that there may be an early election.
There’s no need to focus or fight over hudud. The bigger battle is here right now and this is that the household budget of the average Malaysian for 2017 has been made a disaster zone because of the BN’s and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s bungling and misgovernance.
KOON YEW YIN, a retired chartered engineer, is a philanthropist.