What GST and subsidies rationalization has in common is that it affects the public pocket directly. People can actually feel the different when they commute to work every morning. It is beyond obvious that handling cost of living is an important agenda for the government. There are a lot of initiatives promised by Barisan Nasional during GE-13 which targeted on cost of living. Some of these policies are listed below:
- Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M)
- Baucar Buku 1Malaysia (BB1M)
- Reducing car price by 25%- 30%
- Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M)
- Perumahan Rakyat 1Malaysia (PR1MA)
- Abolishing tolls
BR1M brands itself as a way to help B40 to cope with the escalating living costs, KR1M provided affordable products to the public, and PR1MA gives affordable housing, all initiative was proposed to address a specific need, but how doesn’t these policies perform is another question.
First, we look into BB1M. The news coverage on the initiative is very low. There are only seven news talked on BB1M in 2018, and not more than 20 in 2017. Recent news was mostly about the changing of BB1M to KADS1M. As an aftermath, the public are not aware of the subsidy.
Reduction of Car Price
Second, we look into the reduction of car price. In February 2018, Berita Harian was in the spotlight because of one of their articles. It stated that Malaysia car price had gone down by 2.5% to 20.77% since 2013.
Automotive blogger Paultan did a throughout research regarding Berita Harian claim. He actually found out that car price in Malaysia did not reduce as much as what the press reported.
Although both report was wrong regarding the matter (Berita Harian handpicked and distorted price while Paultan failed to take inflation into account), but the public perception had formed based on the ownership of Berita Harian. The press was under Media Prima which is affiliated with the Barisan Nasional government. Hence, the public felt that the government tried to cheat them using the inaccurate statistic published by Berita Harian.
Next, we look into KR1M. In September 2017, KR1M faced a major PR crisis when government announced that they are going to close down KR1M shops due to major lost incurred by high working capital. In their defence, the said that the shutting down will pave a new road for the next generation KR1M 2.0.
Referring to the bar charts above, there are two spikes, one in September 2017, when government announces closing KR1M, and second spike in February 2018, when government announced KRIM 2.0.
KR1M problem was exasperated by Mydin. In an interview with the managing director of Mydin Datuk Wira Dr Ameer Ali stated that KR1M is a corporate social responsibility product that cause them lose RM100 million. Another problem with KR1M is that the public don’t feel that KR1M products are much cheaper compared to the other stores.
PR1MA received a lot of attention on the Internet. The reason is the initiative dealt with one of the fundamental human needs, which is the need for shelter. Studying the exposure on mainstream media, PR1MA received about 100 news monthly on average.
In February 2017, PR1MA peaked on the media because of the introduction of Skim Pembiayaan Fleksible. Additionally, it peaked on October and November because of the 2018 Budget allocation for the affordable housing scheme.
Although policy caused a surge in media coverage, but the most discussed issues is regarding the take up rate of PR1MA. Other than the take up rate, the media also focused on the difficulty in getting loan from bank and the 1 million units promised by the government.
This actually exhibit the flaw of PR1MA. When people can’t get loan from the bank, it indicated that Malaysian cannot afford PR1MA house. This is a problem that cannot be solved by political intervention. Malaysia interest rate is low in global standard after taking into account of the inflation rate. Bank Negara can no longer lower the interest rate just to support property market.
Such situation brings bad publication for PR1MA. “Affordable housing still not affordable” is a headline that frequently appeared in the media. Besides, public also see PR1MA in the light of politics. There are no PR1MA housing in the two opposition states, Selangor and Penang.
Toll is another policy that became a hot issue. Statistically, there are more than 500 coverage every month on toll alone, but it is not all about toll price.
Referring to the toll media exposure, there is a strong surge on toll last October. That was the time when the government announced to abolish tolls at Batu Tiga and Sungai Rasau, both in Selangor, Batu Kayu Hitam in Kedah and EDL in Johor.
Unexpectedly, those tolls abolishment did not receive well by the public as the termination require extension of others toll concession. Some opposition politicians suspected that those tolls were abolished because their concessions are ending soon. In response, PLUS came out to clarify that the termination is actually 20 years earlier than the actual termination date.
No matter how many tolls were abolished, the public reaction is common: “Not enough”. Unless the tolls abolished affected them, the toll abolishment won’t please the them.
In December 2016, Tun Dr Mahathir use the word “dedak” to refer BR1M. implying BR1M as animal feeds that corrupt the public. The words “dedak” became a phenomenon when numerous opposition politicians used it. The word “dedak” spiked when Pakatan Harapan released their manifesto and the time when government remit BR1M into public account in February 2018.
The public felt offended with usage of the word “dedak” by the opposition politicans, but it doesn’t really matter. It is because when Harapan Manifesto was released, BR1M was still remained as one of their promises. Consequently, some people teased Pakatan Harapan as a hypocrite for retaining BR1M. However, what matter the most is that they are still receiving the handout. One way or another, it will still make the happy.
As a conclusion, the initiatives implemented by the government to help the people in reducing their cost of living were not well received by the public.