Getting by, but just barely

I AM a teacher in a government secondary school in Seremban. Like the over 1.7 million civil servants in Malaysia, news that Budget 2021 may not see smooth passage in the Dewan Rakyat is deeply worrying for me.

Although it’s true that we civil servants did not suffer a pay cut or were retrenched during this economically challenging time, our plight is no less troubling.

Take my personal experience as an example. My husband was retrenched in June with a negligible severance package after his haulage company experienced a severe drop in business. Whatever retrenchment benefits he received have been exhausted and we are now digging into our savings. Now in his mid-40s, it’d be difficult for him to find a job given the current economic downturn.

Before the MCO was imposed,

I had conducted tuition classes in my house after working hours to

supplement my income. With the movement restrictions imposed,

I had to stop the classes because

I would be breaking the law if I continued and also put the health of my family at risk. The classes used to make up around 20% of

my total income and it’s all gone now.

I have three school-going children aged between eight and 13. As any parent can attest to, raising children these days is not cheap. And now the burden of providing for the family is solely on me until my husband lands a job, which, by the looks of things, will take a while.

On top of that, my elderly parents who run a sundry shop in Rantau are also finding it hard to make ends meet. Their business has dropped by some 45% since the MCO was implemented and they are having trouble covering their overheads and paying suppliers due to cash flow problems. As their daughter, I am duty-bound to help tide them over financially during such troubling times.

And then there’s my younger brother who is in his final year of studies in Bristol, England. He used to work part-time as a waiter in a restaurant near his campus before the pandemic to help support his studies. Now, work is few and far in between there. At this rate, it’d be a matter of time before he sends out an SOS to keep him afloat.

For me personally, my economic “lifeline” now is the salary I draw as a teacher, which is not even much to begin with. Unlike those in the private sector who may have made more savings during the good times, I do not have such a privilege with my meagre government salary.

And now, I am told that if Budget 2021 is voted down, there will be a government shutdown and the salaries of civil servants will not be paid from January. And God knows how long it’d take for the government to re-table a new Budget and have it approved in Parliament.

Leaving aside the politics of it, I just hope that Budget 2021 is approved. We civil servants will suffer tremendously and unfairly if it is not.


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