On 4 June 08 (Wednesday), the Malaysian Prime Minister announced the increase in petrol price up to 41%. The announcement brought upon many protests from all quarters. I remembered on the Wednesday night itself, the petrol station near my home was beginning to get congested as I was driving out. As I pass by the petrol station again near midnite on my way back home, there was a long queue of cars. This happens each time there is a petrol hike.
Unfortunately for me, my petrol tank was running empty but I have no desire to queue with others. So, I filled up my petrol after the price increase. I told myself silently that I will cut down my expenses in other areas or drive less.
On Sunday, I went out with my long time friend and we were having our favourite thosai masala at an Indian restaurant in Brickfields. We took time to catch up on our lives as well as discuss on current issues. Of course, the issue of the petrol increase came up and how it carries the snowball effect, ie prices of everything from rice (already recently the price of rice almost doubled), flour, food, groceries, gas and soon, probably water, electricity will be going up. Unfortunately, the below average income earners (especially those with lots of school going kids) will be badly hit. Once, my mom took a taxi and was chatting with the taxi driver. The driver was so angry with the government for increasing the petrol price- as the result, he could hardly make ends meet. And he has 6 school going children to feed but he is making less than RM50 per day. How is he to survive?
Many young people who start to work are already heavily in debt. Most of debts are from credit cards whereby it’s easy to withdraw cash from the credit card (no collateral required) but bears the highest interest rates (18% per annum). For every RM1 they are earning, they are spending RM1.50 or RM2. Some are even spending more. In less than 10 years, these people will be buried in heavy debts and many young people have already filed for bankruptcy.Despite many complaints that people have on the price increase, both of us agree that there could be one positive outcome- that is people learn to control and cut down their spending. They will think twice before making any purchases, cook and eat at home more often (more healthy) and do not drive unless they have to. For people who are accustomed to luxury lifestyle that they could barely support, this could well be a wake-up call to learn to be disciplined.
Little reduction in expenses count, ie,
- instead of ordering sweet drinks with meals, order plain water or Chinese tea (no calories) or better still, bring your own water (at least it would not be tap water like what is served by some places)
- learn how to cook simple and nutritious food for the family (with little or no MSG)
- instead of branded toys/clothings for the kids/baby, well, those in pasar malam or on sale is just as good
- if the place that you are visiting (especially town area) has convenient public transport, then take public transport. Of course, if the whole family of 5 are travelling, then it would probably be more cost effective to drive
- family time does not mean spending at the noisy and crowded malls- learn to be creative- start some cooking projects (like muffin baking together) and craft projects. Or just spent the quiet time catching up
- instead of eating at a pricey restaurant, how about the long forgotten family picnic at the park? It’s enjoyable and brings us closer to nature
After last Thursday’s effective petrol price increase, the traffic jam don’t seems to be that bad. And instead of the normal big crowd of people pushing one (and some even 2) fully loaded trolley (enough to feed an army), I did not even have to queue for long to pay. People seemed to buy less and come out less. The petrol price increase would probably be more effective in controlling traffic jam that the all out campaign that the government organised years ago to encourage car pooling.