Workers’ Day blues: When food prices make your stomach churn


This evening I was at a local fruit vendor’s stall and happened to overhear another customer, a young woman, with a child nearby, speaking in Tamil into her cellphone: “I was planning to buy this fruit,” she said, “but when I saw the vela (price), I couldn’t.”

“Waira eriya” (my stomach started smarting/burning), she added with a sigh.

A bit dramatic, but this snippet of conversation illustrates how higher food prices are hurting many workers and their families while the Umnoputras and the top 5 per cent are so out of touch they don’t realise this.

Poor poor economic management (including little attention given to food security), a regressive taxation system including the GST, the removal of subsidies, high household debt, stagnant wages, and massive corruption in the country have left many ordinary people feeling the squeeze.

But let’s not overlook the fact that our corporate-led economic system and neoliberal economic policies, linked to the global model, are also responsible for this state of affairs. These have squeezed workers’ budgets, widened income inequalities and enriched wealthy corporations and financial institutions.

So it is not just us: workers in other nations are also feeling the strain. The other day, an Australian friend of mine who lives near Melbourne sent in this report:

Anyway, what you are saying about property prices and consumer spending is what is happening here. There has been generally no real increase in wages for five or more years now. (In some places, wages are decreasing.) Electricity, gas and water charges have increased so much. Food and the rest of life is also inflating ++ Private property has gone through the roof (so to speak).

They blame overseas investors, superannuation funds and us older people who have discovered property speculation. The median house price in Melbourne has topped A$800k; in the country it is about $350k. Retail is suffering; many are buying (have to) food rather than junk luxury items.

The local mall in our little town has seven shops working and about 10 I think are empty. The owners have been trying to sell it for some three years now. The management of the larger mall in the area doubled the rents about 18 months ago and many walked. However their places have mostly been taken up.

Unemployment bad in our local area here – about 10% all over, with 25% what they call youth unemployment. The government is still working for big business.

Doesn’t that sound uncannily familiar?

Indeed, youth unemployment over here too is creeping up to worrying levels. According to a Pakatan Harapan press statement to mark Workers’ Day:

Pengangguran anak muda di Malaysia dianggar mencecah 10.7% pada 2015, iaitu lebih tiga kali ganda pengangguran di peringkat nasional iaitu 3.1%; 

Anak muda merupakan separuh dari jumlah pekerja yang menganggur, walaupun mereka merupakan satu pertiga jumlah tenaga kerja di negara kita;

Kadar pengangguran pada 2015 di kalangan mereka yang mendapat pengajian tinggi adalah 15.3% dan 9.8% bagi mereka yang tiada pengajian tinggi;

Dari segi pendapatan, 54% graduan menerima gaji kurang dari RM2,000 sebulan. Gaji permulaan bagi graduan masih kekal sama sejak 2007.

Things have reached such a state that 113 civil society groups and political parties have supported a Workers’ Day Declaration calling for the setting up of a Workers Retrenchment Fund. They also want an increase in the minimum wage to RM1,500 per month, among other demands.

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  1. OF all the statistics trotted out to show the health of the economy, one indicator is causing some concern among economists, who said it spells trouble for every Malaysian over the long term.

    The current account balance is a gauge for the state of the economy and if it goes into a deficit for an extended period, it affects everything from wages to the price of vegetables.

    Malaysia’s current account balance still shows a surplus but the bad news is that it has been declining steadily from 2014.

    Economist Ali Salman said that the surplus dropped by more than half or 57.75%, from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of this year.

    If this decline is not addressed, it will mean years of tepid growth and hit the pockets of ordinary Malaysians. Economists said these are among the impacts of a declining surplus:

    * It makes it harder to create new jobs and sources of income for citizens thus, curbing their spending power.

    * It saps investor confidence, which can then weaken the ringgit.

    * A weak ringgit would make imports, such as food and goods, more expensive and drive up supermarket prices.

    * The worst part is that the above factors can compound and feed off each other, thus, leading to slower overall growth.

    “(This then) becomes a vicious cycle of poor growth and rising inflation which can lead to social unrest,” said economist Ramon Navaratnam.

  2. Workers’ Delight?

    The gross national income (GNI) per person in Malaysia has gone up to US$10,010 (RM42,978), just 18% shy of the US$12,275 it needs to achieve to be declared a high income nation, said PM Najib.

  3. According to Ceupacs president Azih Muda, civil servants have ended up heavily in debt to manage rising living costs, to the point that more than 60,000 of them risk bankruptcy.

    “This is a direct effect of the hike in cost of living. Civil servants end up taking up a lot of loans and this is unsustainable and they are unable to manage their finances,” Azih told the Reuters news agency.

    Of course, this report was not carried in the mainstream Malay media. Neither have been the numerous reports on the financial mess that Umno leaders have inflicted on Felda settlers through the launch of Felda Global Ventures Berhad.

  4. Malaysia’s inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), rose 4.4% in April from a year earlier mainly on costlier fuel besides food and non-alcoholic drinks.

  5. YB Liew Chin Tong:

    Malaysia memerlukan satu kejutan. Sebagai contoh, saya cadangkan agar gaji pemungut sampah dibayar dengan lebih baik bagi mencetuskan gelombang peningkatan pendapatan.

    Maksud saya, apabila pemungut sampah dibayar RM2,000 sebulan, pendapatan golongan lain, termasuk siswazah akan turut meningkat, mungkin bermula dengan RM4,000 sebulan.

    Mengapa saya mengambil contoh pemungut sampah?

    Sekarang, pengutipan sampah dan pembersihan bandaraya adalah kontrak lumayan yang diberikan kepada kontraktor kroni oleh kerajaan tempatan atau agensi pengurusan sisa pepejal. Biasanya kroni ini mengambil jalan mudah dengan menyerah tugas kepada sub-kontraktor.

    Dan biasanya terdapat lebih satu orang tengah yang tidak melakukan apa-apa tetapi dimanfaatkan melalui kontrak atau lesen yang dia perolehi daripada hubungan politiknya.

    Masalahnya, ia tidak lagi menguntungkan apabila projek ini sampai ke tangan sub-kontraktor.

    Sub-kontraktor, yang sentiasa memikirkan cara untuk mengurangkan kos, akan mengupah buruh asing kurang mahir untuk menjalankan kerja 3D (dangerous, dirty, and demeaning) ini, iaitu bahaya, kotor dan rendah tahap. Mereka hanya dibayar di antara RM600 dan RM900 sebulan.

    Trak sampah biasanya dikendalikan seorang pemandu warga Malaysia yang juga dibayar gaji rendah dengan empat atau lima buruh Bangladesh.

    Sedangkan di banyak negara maju, trak pemungut sampah biasanya dipandu hanya seorang pemandu, dengan kerja selebihnya diautomasikan.

    Bukankah lebih baik jika kita membayar RM2,000 sebulan kepada seorang pemungut sampah mahir seperti di negara maju yang boleh mengendalikan trak sampah sendiri?

    • Good point but why the wages is still low despite so many local graduates now?
      Oversupply of unqualified graduates with irrelevant skills is the main reason.

  6. Anil and brothers Raj and Ravi

    Should we call oursrlvez Malaysian Indian or Indian Malaysian? See the article on The Sun today.

  7. Recently some controversial raids by MPPP against illegal hawkers.

    MBPP has issued statistics to dispute claims that its officers practised racial discrimination during raids on illegal businesses or demolition of unlawful structures.

    According to the figures provided by MBPP, its officers have carried out enforcement on 305 individuals from Jan to April this year.

    Based on overall racial breakdown, MBPP had acted against 103 Malays (34%), 158 Chinese (52%), 31 Indians (10%) and 13 others (4%).

  8. They want Retrenchment Fund but gomen has already announced plans for Worker’s Insurance. Opposition has several questions on this (see the article elsewhere) including whether this relieves the employer of paying compensation as specified in existing laws.

    Many now know about the story of the Boiling Frog – it will supposedly not jump out of hot water if the heat is increased slowly.

    • Singapore’s focus on helping workers to keep their jobs and assisting those who have lost their jobs to find new ones remains the best approach to tackle unemployment, Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said.

      She was responding to a proposal by the opposition MP that workers who are laid off should be covered by some form of insurance funded by premiums they and their employers pay when employed.

      “The most serious downside with automatic insurance payouts is that it reduces the incentive to find work,” she added.

      In Denmark, studies found that jobless workers waited until just before the benefits expire to take up available jobs, she noted.

  9. The Prime Minister’s wife Rosmah Mansor, who is patron of the Permata Programme, will be in London, from tomorrow until May 10 to expand the programme.

    The Foreign Ministry said she is scheduled to give a speech and open the Nobelist Mindset, a programme organised by Permata Pintar with the Royal Society of London.

  10. The Father of Inflation is still in charge of (mis)managing the nation’s finances.

    Woe betide low income people and pensioners on fixed monthly incomes.

    • Malaysia’s 1.6 million public servants have long been one of the most reliable vote banks for PM Najib’s ruling coalition, but as he prepares to seek re-election he faces warnings that soaring living costs risk eroding that support.

      Prices have risen sharply since Malaysia cut state subsidies and launched a GST to plug a hole in its finances caused by falling oil and gas revenues, and rank-and-file government workers say they are feeling the pinch.


    Yesterday was Mayday~•~ a celebration with singing and dancing, with flowers and cakes. I may prize my self lucky for this I am not raised up in a country where they celebrate slavery…. They changed the day anyway!!!
    History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who were not there. ~George Santayana~

    Mayday mayday is an ancient celebration of spring… in Northern hemisphere, a beautiful day with singing n dancing
    Not Labourday but MayDay…a beautiful celebration turns into Labourday
    Mayday mayday is an emergency code now…
    Another dirty trick

    A dirty trick… to force workers, to suffer, a call for help!!! That’s what labour means.

    When every thing changes, change everything!!!

    Laborday is organized by Labor parties and labor unities…
    Celebrated on the first monday of September

    Mayday~ dancing around the Maypole and crowning the queen of May…
    Celebration with flowers and cakes in baskets!

    Happy MayDay flowerqueen

    Its real history…enjoy the Mayday!!! Which is the first monday of may
    So today is real Mayday!!! As in history…
    Time to change for the good!!!

    I got a reply from a friend in Australia, what brings the story back to the topic.

    From sunny Perth sur la merde on labour day. ‘I used to be a socialist then I started to earn big money, now the proletariat can bugger off.
    ‘Everyone has a price, wealth and power is corruptable absolutely’
    How was the chanting? …’.

    The elite/cabal/warlords need to keep humanity under fears and control
    They are puppets who need to do what is the order from the grey pope…the darkest of all. He is the top of the pyramid
    Pepe Orsini
    Politic = Polutic. Very badly poluted…
    The blues of Labourday….soon there wont be any roadstalls left! You dont believe will happen in Penang??? Only one solution
    Take your power back!!!

    No more roadstalls in bangkok
    75 places in India will be cashless soon
    The Secret history of the World and how to get out alive ~ Laura Knight-Jadezyk

    • Sorry, very hard to relate to your writings despite reading 3 times. Keep it simple to get your message across.

      • The only way to learn is repeating… Three times is often not enough!

        When there is happening a lot you need to get a lot of knowledge…knowledge gives wisdom. You dont get that at USM…so you might get it from other sources when you read with an open mind. Its a good trial at least you tried.

        Its not easy to keep reality simple…there are too many lies

        Never put science above the power of God and Nature, because ‘science’ is only the study of what already is.

        Enjoy the study, dont forget to live!!!

      • Don’t forget to live?

        Tell this to the YOLO generation?

        Enjoy now, spend first, worry later?
        Remember this part of the world does not have state welfare like unemployment benefits!

  12. Food prices soaring aka barang naik.
    RM income stagnating.
    As a result, many expect more social problems ahead in order for some to sustain basic livelihoods?


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