Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Image by Mob

I came across an interesting letter written to Malaysiakini by a man who recently hired two fresh graduates to join his company as an entry-level engineer with a basic pay of RM 1600 per month. Seeing that letter reminded me of my first job, in which I was paid RM 1800 per month. At that time I was hired, it was the second quarter of 2006. At the end of February that year, the Abdullah Badawi government increased fuel prices for the second time by another 30 cents to the previous rate of $1.92.

Towards the end of the month, where we usually get our monthly pay, I was wondering whether the money was suffice to carry me throughout the month. The money that we get is after EPF deductions and SOSCO contributions. So my nett at that time was less than $1600. I knew that I had to set aside about $400 for transportation alone - which includes the monthly fuel bills including Touch and Go thing. Given of the food costs in Subang Jaya as well as buying groceries for the whole week, I calculated that I either saved less than $100 per month or it's clean - no spare left.

Finally there was a chance for me to move to another company and I was paid slightly better, which is about another 10 percent with bonuses and claims. It was slightly better, but still the same as the first scenario. In November, around the same time the HINDRAF rally occured, I was in Singapore for the weekend, and throughout the three days, I observed that Singaporeans had much buying power than Malaysians. We were forced to cut down our comfort that every citizen should be deserving. They are able to buy things that we should be entitled to. One night, I was with my dad's friend, Francis and his son, Benjamin for dinner and assuming I used their money, the price to pay there is much cheaper and better than paying in Malaysia.

A $1600 dollar pay in Singapore is equivalent to $3200 here in Malaysia. The think tanks there knew of the economic meltdown from the US anytime and they would try to encouraged the appreciation of their currency to minimize the inflation. With that, people there are still able to enjoy great things and keeping their comfort zone intact. If $1600 in Singapore is satisfying the basic needs of a working professional, in Malaysia, it is no longer satisfying the essentials or essentials have been sacrificed.

If this is 1980s, $1800 is almost as the lifestyle in Singapore; I am able to buy many things and equipment for comfort, but sadly after the 1998 Asian financial crisis, we never recovered from that and as the result, a person working there is earning three times than the capital in Malaysia.

Quoting further from the letter:

To compound the effect of inflation, the ringgit has depreciated greatly against all major currencies. The real income of most Malaysians has moved backwards.

This is why many Malaysians suffer under the petrol hike. The root of the problem is that our real incomes have shrunk in the face of inflation and depreciated currency. Malaysians have not been spoiled by subsidy but are unable to move out of the time lock of stagnated and depreciated incomes.

The BN leadership never bothered to pay attention seriously to the economic aspect, not thoroughly. Saying that the US Treasury report as crap, according to Dollah Badawi was the biggest mistake and insult that the people took from him, on the economic side.

We seem to be sliding down a slippery slope, further down with each passing year of BN's rule. Another five years of BN rule and we’ll be at Indonesia’s standard under Suharto. Another 10 years and we’ll be touching the African standard. What a way to greet 2020.

I fear it might happen sooner and Malaysia could be like another Indonesia. I let the letter say more and covering of what I want to say. I look at the money available, it forced people to go for those sometimes cheap but low-quality products but it could sacrifice a person's healthbeing in the long run. It's like instead of eating the proper food and gaining the proper nutrition, the BN government is asking people to eat something that is ridiculous, like eating grass. We are humans, not cows. We are omnivores, not carnivores nor herbivores.

I remembered Syed Syahir said during the rally in the morning that the MTUC will keep pressuring the government to give them COLA or a minimum wage. It that's the case, everyone should be earning at least double of what they are earning now. A fresh-grad professional should be earning $3000, not $1500! I should be earning at least $6000 now.

Right now, I work for a multi-national company and I realize that professionals there earn within $5000 and $7000 ringgit per month. The rate I earned is roughly what a fresh grad should earn right now, but instead it is around those professionals who work at local companies for about 3 years plus. They are in the losing end, and I had a pity for earning less for a high amount of effort put in.

If the prices went up but salary never goes up because Dollah Badawi says no, then it is like BN telling people to sleep at the streets, eat trash, eat grass, walk long distance to offices, sacrifice hygeine, and etc..He once arrogantly said "don't compare Malaysia to Singapore" - WRONG. We should be earning as much as Singapore.

Disregarding of the letting the market decide the rate, I should be paying: 2.5 for 1 USD, 3.X for an EURO, 1.8 for SGD, and 4.0 for a UK pound right now. Not double the rate...The time of depending on exports will have to be shorten out. This plan is about surviving for the next 15 years or something.

If you are a working professional like myself getting stuck in those things, what will you do then?

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