Don’t Play-Play with My Money

The cost of living in KL is high. And I’ve been told that housing in Petaling Jaya has gotten more expensive in the last few years.

Let me qualify that I’m not, for once, using the price of a Tall latte from Starbucks as a gauge. This time, I’m using two current observations:

1. The sudden atomic explosion of air-conditioned “kopitiams” like PappaRich, Old Town White Coffee, etc.

2. The sudden atomic explosion of air-conditioned “kopitiams” like PappaRich, Old Town White Coffee, etc., DESPITE the fact that a bowl of noodles (aptly called noodles because that’s all you pretty much see in the big bowl too) costs about RM5.

5 > 10 Tea!

5 > 10 Tea!

Now, before anyone complains that this is all too general, I would like to say that I AM using general observations because they’re a good gauge on how the Ringgit is doing. Besides, I’ve stopped reading the newspapers since the death of Teoh Beng Hock, so I have no access to actual property figures.

Having said that, life in KL has always been on the high side. But I know how high high has become when my domestic helper (by the way, she helps with housework so I can spend quality time with my 16-month old – so don’t get too excited about slamming me for my so-called middle-class status) indignantly questions me why “…sebiji terung boleh berharga RM2.80?” Apparently back in Jawa, she can get “satu kilo” worth of brinjals for that price. That’s a lot of sambal terung!

Another quaint observation, as mentioned by a colleague, is the seemingly lethargic climb of the basic salary against the more enthusiastic jumps in our living costs. In short, the figures don’t match.

Talk to any fresh graduate and he or she will tell you that sometimes they’re being picky because the pay is ridiculously low. A nonchalant scan across the Google universe reveals articles where the reigning opinion is that Malaysians are quite a lowly paid lot.

Given this scenario, it bothers me that my taxes are sitting somewhere in a vault named “Emergency: Use Upon Discretion” and the said emergencies include by-election handouts and GLC bailouts as these usually qualify.

I mean, who really knows what’s happening or going to happen with Sime Darby? And never mind the occasional tour de force headed for Disneyland though what relevant charities exist there I don’t know.

But it bugs me that I am continually paying a total of RM8.00 worth of toll (both ways) just to visit my old folks in Cheras. Should there not be at least information to the public regarding the length of time we’re supposed to pay for the convenience of the highways?

I remember when I was in my SPM year and the Cheras toll plaza was still around. There was an ambitious plan to charge the residents RM1.oo. Literally, a riot broke out with hundreds if not thousands of Cheras-ians storming out of the brickworks to protest against the high price. It wasn’t long before the plaza was pulled down.

Is this testimony to the might of the tough Cheras-ian folks or simply proof that politicians can perform magic tricks and make cement structures disappear if they needed votes? Cheras remains DAP territory and that should say something.

But as my 74-year old mum says, “Wah, you say your condo convenience store is expensive but the ‘sawi’ at the Cheras market is almost the same price!”

We work hard for our money. Harder than we imagine. 10 years ago, RM200 could last me a week. And this was with me pulling in average 60-hour weeks, dining at mamak stalls plus shopping for cheap clothes at Parkson all factored in.

Now, I’m lucky if my weekly RM400 budget remains untampered with. Admittedly, life is a lot more expensive if you have children and I do have one baby in the midst.

But what if it’s circa 2020 and all we have are PappaRich and Old Town White Coffee (or their hybrids) because by then, all the wantan noodle and mamak stalls will be self-service kiosks charging an extra RM1.00 for monthly machine maintenance?

Will my kid have to be a semi-millionaire to own the basic car and home and hold a reasonably pleasant wedding at a restaurant (we’re not even talking about a banquet at The Westin ballroom here) or will he essentially be a pisang-millionaire who hails from Bananaringgitland?

Let’s hope this is not what Vision 2020 is about because if so, I’m strangely hoping I’ll have cataracts by then.

Have things really gone up in price due to scarcity of resources? To a certain extent this may be true of the world. But given the cloak and dagger behaviour of our country’s leaders, how can we shake off the feeling that some of our politicians have also been flushing our taxes into the economy in order to project a “healthy economic growth”, despite the slow climb elsewhere out of the worldwide economic gloom?

Is Bobby McFerrin really dead? Or has he reincarnated and become one of our ministers? “Don’t worry la, be happy la…everything ok. Everything boleh. Vote saja-lah untuk kami. Pasti beres.”

One last word on money. It really doesn’t grow on trees. And even if it did, I suspect they’re being chopped left, right and centre, anyway. If we live too long thinking we’ve got what we don’t have – and I mean this in a larger-picture way – we will BE bankrupt by 2019.

Middle-class Malaysians will never know why they spend so much time at the office working their butts off. Traders will never really make much profit for the protection money they have to surrender, plus the countless other “donations” they have to make in order to run a business. Farmers will never find more productive ways to increase their yield and improve their livelihood – well, especially if the equipment they get for voting some politicians don’t really work.

Last but not least, nobody but the same, privileged politicians will know if our savings are worth the value of what we put in, in the first place. Even if it’s the general rule of thumb that the Government “tak boleh main dengan duit rakyat”, somehow “BOLEH” will triumph.

It’s Bolehland remember?

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Lisa Ng is a human being. She used to be a copywriter in the advertising industry. But now she just writes. For whatever helps us regain the lost art of "giving a toss" about the things that matter to the human race.

Posted on 19 June 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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