‘Locals are being priced out’

Popular hangout: Johor Baru’s bustling Jalan Tan Hiok Nee which is frequented by Singaporeans who patronise the many modern cafes and traditional kopitiams. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: Traders here are continuing to enjoy brisk business, with loads of Singaporeans crossing over to take advantage of their strong currency.

Johor Indian Muslim Entrepreneurs Association secretary Hussein Ibrahim said more and more Singaporeans were driving into the state via the Causeway and Second Link, especially during the weekends, for shopping and dining.

“We are currently seeing a 15% increase in Singaporean customers at our restaurants, money changers and even petrol stations.

“The current exchange rate favours the Singapore dollar compared to the ringgit, which encourages Singaporeans and those working there to come here to do their shopping and dining as it is very affordable to them,” he said yesterday.

Despite the strong Singaporean patronage, Hussein said he hoped the government would be able to address the decreasing value of the ringgit as soon as possible.

This is because locals earning Malaysian ringgit lose out in spending power compared with their Singaporean counterparts, he added.

“The cost of living in the Johor Baru area has gone up. Locals are being priced out, which is hard for them and businesses that are also dependent on local customers,” he said.

Johor Indian Petty Traders Association president D. Ravindran said he expected more Singaporeans to cross over to the association’s Deepavali bazaar located at Taman Tampoi Indah, with the festival just a week away.

“We are expecting last-minute shopping from our Singaporean customers, as that is usually the case.

“Singaporeans prefer coming here to get must-have Deepavali items such as murukku because it is much more affordable for them here than buying it in their own country.

“They are able to buy in bulk, spending about RM500 each, which is a small amount for them when converted to the Singapore dollar,” he said, adding that there were more than 30 stalls at the bazaar.

South Johor SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said ever since the land border between Malaysia and Singapore reopened on April 1 last year, businesses located around the Johor Baru city area had been doing well.

Coupled with the currency exchange rate, it gave a huge advantage to Singaporeans and Malaysians working in the island republic, he said.

“Businesses in the services sector, such as food and beverage, retail, including car wash, hairdressing and even spa, are seeing more Singaporean customers, especially now,” he added.

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