Inordinately worked up over removal of subsidy

WE Malays have a word that I feel has no English equivalent. It’s melenting. The closest translation I can think of perhaps is probably “aroused to anger”, but this doesn’t quite capture the spirit and nuances associated with the word.

While it is a Malay word, this trait is not confined to this community. I dare venture to say that of late, Malaysians as a whole are quick to get worked up over baseless and senseless issues.

Take, for example, the recent announcement on the removal of subsidies for chicken, chicken eggs and bottled cooking oil. Earlier this week, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry announced the removal of subsidies for bottled cooking oil, chicken and chicken eggs starting July 1.

When Malaysians saw the words “subsidy removal”, particularly at a time when the economy is still chugging along, their melenting mechanism was activated. Acting on impulse, they were quick to meroyan (whining or kicking up a fuss), especially on their social media, based on half-truths, if not total lies. No thanks to agents provocateur taking advantage of the situation, they accused the government of being insensitive and detached from reality.

Now here’s the reality: The government has allocated RM4bil subsidy for cooking oil for this year, more than the RM2.2bil for last year and RM500 million for 2020. So, which part of the government is insensitive, especially to the poor?

The government removed subsidies for cooking oil in bottles of 2kg, 3kg and 5kg only. Subsidy for the 1kg polybag packages remains. The subsidy for bottled cooking oil was introduced in August 2021 and meant to last for three months only, but it has been dragged to 10 months now! Does that sound like a cruel government to you?

As for the removal of subsidies for chicken and chicken eggs, this was to ensure adequate supply in the market and stabilise prices in the long run. Any economist can tell you that prolonged and massive subsidies are inefficient.

And it does not make sense for the T20 to enjoy equal, if not more, subsidies than the B40 group. This is why the government has increased the Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) cash handout to the B40 group. Households in this category will be given an additional RM100, and unmarried youths stand to pocket an extra RM50. This would bring the total BKM payout to as high as RM2,500 per household this year.

To me, the problem boils down to our propensity to let our biases cloud our judgements. How many of us actually read beyond the “Cooking oil subsidies removed” headlines? We get a kick from complaining about a world view that fits our biases and prejudices even if they are distorted versions of reality. We love to melenting and meroyan. And that is doing the country a huge disservice!


Taman Sri Gombak


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