Did Uber save the day in Malaysia’s economic chaos?

By Cordoba.Ali

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Picture Credit: https://www.tsheets.com/mobile-time-tracking
https://www.tsheets.com/mobile-time-tracking

Blaming low levels of financial literacy and a rising cost of living, officials and analysts, together with economists are saying that 94% of Malaysians are struggling to save and invest for the future.

A 2015 survey by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) revealed that three out of four Malaysians are unable to raise RM1000 (US $235) in an emergency.

The survey is old, and the BNM should do another survey to get its policies right, because what comes next in the survey might just not be the actual situation today.

The survey said only 6% of respondents were confident about meeting their financial obligations for at least six months if they lost their income.

Such dismal figures highlight a worrying trend, wrote Asean Today in a review of the survey.

The figure could be lower nowadays, unless the ‘Uberisation’ of the economy has helped dampen the situation, but we will never know unless – once again – an agency carries out another survey.

BMN blames the situation on household debt in Malaysian which is sky-high, saying Malaysia has one of the highest levels of household debt in the region with a household debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of 88.5% as at end-2016, it said.

But while all these are nothing new, the portal said while 82% of adults said they had saved money every year, only 34% of these people put their money into formal arrangements at a bank.

We are not sure of that 82% figure, but perhaps the survey targeted people with a higher income level, and did not consider those that belongs to the bottom level of wage earners in the country.

FINANCIAL LITERACY?

And the blame is put on the Malaysians for not being savvy enough in spending their money, and in saving and that is now called ‘financial literacy’.

As if the Malaysians now have to go back to school to learn a new subject.

Dudes. What are you all saying?

But the true picture is probably different from what ‘officials’ and analysts or economists are trying to tell.

The portal did say however that the problem for many is that by the end of the month there is often little left over to set aside.

But it seems analysts, economists and officials are blaming the situation on housing loans, which they say together with utilities made up almost a quarter (23.9%) of average total household consumption in 2014 (See Figure below). This was followed by food and beverages (18.9%) and transport (14.6%).

Source: ASEANup

The rising cost of living has hit Malaysians hard it said.

And the good thing with the article is that it acknowledges some structural issues in Malaysia, including the income stagnation that is denied by many, particularly the officials.

The answer to this question by officials is:

  1. Look at the traffic jams, look at the number of people buying cars, look at shopping malls where they are so crowded and look at restaurants, they filled to crack.
  2. And to them, that means Malaysians have a lot of money which they are spending the wrong way.

Well, do they mean Malaysians should change their way of living that is no more cars, no more restaurants, no more shopping malls?

Mahathir’s warning unheeded

Do they want them to buy at Pasar Malam – night markets? But sometimes, or more than often, night markets are not the place to buy a certain necessities at competitive prices.

This is a country where shopping malls are coming up like mushrooms and who do you expect to visit them and spend there, if not the majority of Malaysians?

The most damning is Malaysia’s national income is derived from low-tech and low-skilled manufacturing sectors as well as a commodity export economy.

Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad did mention in an interview to a local paper that Malaysia should move away from the low-tech and low-wage industries to adopt industries where locals can get higher earnings.

These sectors typically employ migrant workers who command low wages. This means Malaysians are also expected to accept lower rates, said Asean Today.

UBER SAVES THE DAY

The answer to that criticism by the current government – impossible to create such a flow of new industries – was to declare Uber and Grab car as the official bread winners for all Malaysians!

With this, they formally gave the Malaysians the right to have two jobs and it is working to some extent except that now both Uber and Grab are invaded by rapists, knife wielding driver-assistants and or plotters who divert from their routes to get young passengers robbed in a no-man’s land.

Financially illiterate Malaysians

And the experts are all converging into one set of answers:

Malaysians are dumb when it comes to spending.

This raises a dumber question: What should the Malaysians do – mostly those in the Below 40% that forms those living below the standards of the middle class level – to save and prove they are financially savvy when they earn an average of RM2000 or lesser per month?

The experts are saying this:

  1. The best way to improve the precarious financial position of many citizens is to increase financial literacy.
  2. Bank Negara Malaysia has already committed to improving the financial education of consumers.
  3. Educational programmes for youths and adults are in the pipeline.

Malaysia’s Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK) said around 20% more individuals sought financial advice in 2016 than the previous year.

This amounted to 10,480 people as of June 2016.

But the truth is these individuals did not sought advise to become more financially savvy before the event…that is before they were caught in the red zone, the dragnet of financial troubles, were they?

High income nation?

And it goes on:

The government needs to work with the private sector and improve people’s financial knowledge – it will be good for the economy and good for business.

And it is this private sector and the government that is in collusion to keep the salaries at the lower levels, blaming it altogether on another phenomenon: that is lack of productivity!

And Malaysia is fast heading toward becoming a ‘Developed Nation’ or a ‘High Income Nation’ in 3 years!

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