BY UMSU PRESS
The Current Situation on Inflation
As early as the beginning of 2022, the people of Malaysia have been noticing that the price of the fish and the vegetable on their table are soaring. Up till now, the rate is already at 3.8% and 4.5% respectively. For chicken, it was even severe, the ceiling price of it rose as much as 56%. These are everyday necessities of a human being – food, not luxurious products which the people can live without or objects which may be substituted.
In short, Malaysia is suffering from inflation. In June 2022, the inflation rate of the country increased as much as 3.4%. The inflation rate leading with food prices, does not end here. It involves transportation costs, household equipment and maintenance costs and more. It is an overall increase in the prices, and a fall in the purchasing power of the people. This is an issue of survival for the average person in Malaysia, not to mention the doubled burden on small business owners.
The Establishment of the Jihad Task Force
In June, the government announced the formation of a special ‘Jihad task force’, which is a six-member committee, chaired by Tan Sri Annuar Musa, the current Minister of Communications and Multimedia. Initially, this task force was seen as a “holistic cross-ministry approach” by the government in reducing the impact of inflation on the people, through the control of prices, subsidy programs, and continuous close observations on supply chain issues. It also enables the government to revive our economy, by having regards to the weakness of our current economy. This approach was highly supported by the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (FOMCA).
However, after a month, the Task Force was being criticised, as no solid framework was produced to tackle the issue of inflation by Syed Saddiq, despite promising to hold meetings twice per week and press conferences after every meeting. Loke Siew Fook also said that this Task Force is nothing more than a public relations exercise by the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to show that, at least on the face of it, the government is serious in tacking the inflation issue and cares for the people.
Why are Prices Rising?
The Center for Market Education chief executive Carmelo Ferlito mentioned that rising prices are due to domestic as well as international factors. Domestically, we have had Covid-19 lockdowns for over 1.5 years. Post-Covid, the demand of the people had been rising, however, the disrupted supply chain due to Covid did not restore as fast. Workers were put out of job due to the low demand, but when demand spikes, products now became scarce, higher cost of production then results in higher prices when the cost is passed over the consumers.
On 1st of May 2022, The Minimum Wages Order 2022 raised the minimum wage of workers in Malaysia from RM1200 to RM1500. A 25% increase in the amount may have, on the face of it, raised the purchasing power of the people. However, when examined in detailed, it is only the people with minimum wages which will be affected, and the large majority will not be affected. Nevertheless, for businesses and manufacturers, their cost of production is once again rising. Those who are not able to pay their workers the minimum amount will then lay off some of their employees, resulting in more people falling into despair.
Internationally, the Russia-Ukraine conflict have also resulted in prices to skyrocket in Malaysia. In February, it was already predicted by Federation of Livestock Farmers' Associations of Malaysia (FLFAM) advisor Datuk Jeffrey Ng that the prices corn, soybeans and palm oil will increase, followed by a rise of chicken prices. The rise in raw material prices globally due to the international conflict had a heavy toll on the people.
Following the above incidents, the government even announced that the ceiling price and the subsidies for key food items like chicken, eggs, and cooking oil will be removed, and its prices will not be fully controlled by the market forces. Although some of the ceiling prices were later reinstated, it was higher than before. Subsidies to farmers were also removed, as the government was of the view that not many farmers took up the subsidies offered, and they are hence justified to remove them completely.
The Demands of the People
On 25th of June 2022, the University of Malaya Student Union (UMSU) and the IIUM Students’ Union (IIUMSU) started a movement #TURUN, and issued a joint statement on their social media, demanding the government to fulfil their responsibility by coming up with plans to curb the rising cost of living and recall their decision of removing the ceiling prices of products and its subsidies. Even for products where the ceiling prices were reinstated after the announcement of their removal, it was made on 29th June 2022, 4 days after the joint statement of the student leaders. On the same day, the two student unions and other student bodies held a press conference, as well as issued another joint statement, listing down 5 demands of the students. Their demands include ministerial pay cuts, improved aid packages to the people, continuation of subsidies, controlled goods and food prices in the universities, and ensure food security.
Unfortunately, not much was done by the government, following these 2 events. On 2nd of July 2022, the group of students held a #TURUN Speakers’ Corner, and voiced out the issue of rising cost of living in Malaysia. 10 protestors were identified and summoned to the police station following the Speakers’ Corner. The students of Malaysia did not back down after the event. Alongside the people of Malaysia, they decided to bring this issue to the streets on 23rd of July 2022, protesting against the governments’ decisions, showing the leaders of our beloved nation, what the Rakyat really wants. Preceding this protest of 100 people, 30 were identified and summoned for investigation.
The cost of living had been skyrocketing globally, from the start of the pandemic, and shows no signs of slowing down post-Covid. The university students of Malaysia, known as the greatest assets and the backbone of a nation had shown their stance and led the movement to fight for better standards of living for the people. It is now up to the government to lay down the policies they would impose in Malaysia to fulfil the demands of the people. With the next general election getting nearer, it is unsure whether it will push the government in fulfilling its duties to the people, and satisfy their demands in their last days in office.
Disclaimer: The article is merely an academic discussion to express the point of view towards the said issue.
Compiled Link: https://linkmix.co/10864528
Written by Secretariat of Current Affairs 2022/23
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