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A tough year ahead

  • Until and unless our leaders come to realize a need to change, we are not going to see any major shift in the country's economic direction. 2016 will still be another tough year for many.

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily

The TPP Text has been released to the world but to ordinary citizens, what they are more concerned about is not the yet-to-be implemented TPP but how they are going to live through next year.

Due to fund shortage in the treasury, the government will carry on with its subsidy rationalization measures in 2016. Subsidies will be either slashed or scrapped and as such, the low and medium-income groups are expected to shoulder heavier financial pressure next year.

Goods and services are getting more expensive in recent months. Even public transportation such as bus, taxi, Komuter, LRT and monorail services are dearer. LNG prices have been upped in September, while tolls on 18 major highways in the country have followed suit.

Where food is concerned, rice subsidy and cooking oil price stabilization plan will be scrapped next year, and soon the government may do the same on flour subsidy. As if that is not enough, the government is also going to remove electricity subsidy and monthly household consumption under RM20 will not be subsidized come 2016.

Even with the drastic cuts in subsidies and the imposition of higher income tax rates for the super rich, the savings will still not be sufficient to cover the enormous expenses.So tobacco tax is remarkably increased by more than 40%, resulting in cigarette prices going up by RM3.00 to RM3.20. Soon, vapes will also be taxed, as there are more than a million vapers in the country to fatten the national treasury.

With public transport services, highway tolls, cigarettes, cooking oil and rice all getting more expensive, coupled with the depreciation of the ringgit, inflation rate is expected to surge.

Our prime minister and many of his cabinet colleagues seem to be still optimistic of the country's economic prospect due to our strong fundamentals. So they are not worried about the impact from higher taxes, reduced subsidies and devaluing local currency. That said, with the country continuing to come under tremendous pressure, it is a matter of time that the last straw breaks the camel's back.

Our ministers keep emphasizing that he government will keep releasing BRIM to help the people, but how can the RM50 increase ever meet the fast rising cost? We are all well aware that abuse of subsidies is a squander of the country's limited resources, but then why doesn't the government stem the exorbitant wastage in government agencies?

While the government is introducing some tax relief measures for 2016 Budget, such savings can only be enjoyed when we file the income tax returns in 2017, and it is not going to help alleviate the more current financial pressure.

With the Kelantan state assembly approving the increase of state assemblymen's salaries, all elected reps in the country will now enjoy significantly higher remunerations, with the Sarawak state reps getting as much as 233% of increment. With these people easily taking home five-figure pays, will they ever understand the affliction of the low-income group?

In the meantime, 1.6 million civil servants in the country will also enjoy salary adjustments and as such are totally unaffected by the slowing economy. By right all Malaysians should bear the burden together and not to put all the pressure on the innocent citizens.

It is imperative for the government to adopt more resolute and comprehensive austerity measures to drastically cut down unnecessary operating expenses. it should share some of the burden of the people . If the private sector and general public lose their consumption and investment powers, government departments and civil servant will eventually feel the pinch as well.

So, the 2016 Budget "Prospering the People" theme is not very appropriate here. We should put the economy on the right track before the rakyat could be prosperous.

Indeed, he national economy will only move back to the right track if the country's resources are properly utilized and populist and racist politics is stopped.

The government has said TPP is not going to affect the country's bumi policies and quotas. This shows that TPP is not going to change the economic direction as the government is fiercely defending such policies.

Until and unless our leaders come to realize a need to change, we are not going to see any major shift in the country's economic direction. 2016 will still be another tough year for many.


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