â€˜You can sing the same old mantra that consumers must become smart and disciplined through educating themselves and our families, to manage our finances not to be brand conscious, to cut the coat or our batik shirt, ‘baju kurung’ according to the cloth, or for that matter continue to plead, urge, mitigate the government, policymakers to raise income levels not just as part of a bourgeoisie public relations stunt but realistically in line with rising cost of living and inflation!
We should not preach to others about ‘changing lifestyles’ when we ourselves are living a bourgeoisie and lavish style!
You can introduce various forms of activities, stakeholders meetings, forums, chats, conferences and â€˜Rakan Programsâ€™ and other â€˜talk shopsâ€™ which will be exciting for those obsessed in writing research papers after research papers, making presentations after presentations since they are professional speech writers and have to justify their pay grade and existence!
But in reality – they will all fail!â€™ â€“ Dr Jacob George
CONSUMERIST: HAVING FAILED WE NOW BLAME CONSUMERS?
All over the world the massive financial deficit is forcing young people to delay key life stages in their life and it is a new frightening phenomenon!
We are advised that 3 in 10 of their parents were married and on the property ladder by the age of 25 but the reality today in most parts of the world is the money worries mean the average young people does not expect to pass these milestones until their mid-30s If they are lucky!
In some parts of the world 3 in 4 of the 3,000 polled for a study agreed with the contention that todayâ€™s young people â€˜are the most financially pressured in history!â€™
One in five has postponed, or feels they should postpone, marriage plans. One in four is delaying having children.
Nearly a third are even considering not having children at all â€˜because they cannot afford to do so!
By contrast the report suggested that most of their own parents had delayed no major life stages.
One of the biggest problems for twenty-somethingâ€™s is the enormous cost of buying a property.
In Malaysia a couple who married in 1985 could have picked up a home for just RM160,000.00!
A child born to the couple two years later would now be 26 and need to find over RM 400,000.00 for a similar house!
To make matters worse, the reality is with or without a university education one would have left them with a mountain of debts averaging hundreds of thousands of ringgit!
Taken together the financial pressures can make it all but impossible to buy a house or have a child.
Biologically, these consequences for women can be devastating if money problems make them delay trying for children until they are in their late 30s and even 40s. By then, their chances of having a healthy baby have declined dramatically.
Historical realities of the past where a typical parent, aged over 45, would have married around the age of 26, had their first child at the same time and bought their first home at the age of 27 is long gone!
Today even those in their thirties are still living in rented accommodation!
Salaries are also under great pressure with a typical private sector worker struggling and not always getting a rise without exposures to layoffs, salary cuts, VSS, retrenchments and other realities of the private sector and the situation at least immunized in the public sector where there is absolutely no possibility of layoffs or retrenchments, pay cuts, let alone sacking!
I was retrenched at age 43 under dubious circumstances which was challenged over 11 years before in June this year I was vindicated and won a landmark case against my former employers who are a major public listed company and conglomerate!
But the victory did not compensate my 11 years of lost income, anxiety, hurt, pain, lost opportunities let alone my savings in EPF!
But my sanity was preserved as I those 11 years I had devoted ‘my time and energy’ to assisting others ‘pro bono’ and without any financial support from any quarter or allocation!
Truly irrespective of which geographical zone one is in todayâ€™s generation in the lower and middle incomes are facing a “perfect economic storm”, which is cutting their living standards and dramatically reducing their ability to buy their own homes and making their lifestyle a misery and one in debt!
When the price of fuel goes up, the average consumer has every reason to feel apprehensive over its domino effect on the daily necessities and services.
These days, hikes in the prices of necessities, including fuel, seems to be a routine affair and a bane for the average wage earner.
Motorists who were paying RM1.85/liter for RON95 and RM2.10/liter for RON97 before are now paying very much more respectively.
This despite most motorist disliking the highly subsidized RON95 saying it affects their vehicle’s performance but using RON97 badly affects their monthly budget.
Let us look at consumables the small onions from India that used to sell at RM4 per kg a month ago is now selling at shocking prices in some places, the greens, poultry, and almost everything else has gone up except the people’s net income.
Many not only have lost count of the price hikes but have given up hoping that the prices will stabilize.
Nowadays, the beleaguered consumers just pay without asking much on the prices imposed by the traders and service providers fearing the prices could be much higher the next day.
A bowl of noodles or fried Koay Teow then cost 70 cents but now, it is RM5.00!
Drinks not that cheap either and with wholesalers and other monopolies dictating prices, availability and unavailability of fresh vegetables, meat, mutton, beef and chicken â€“ consumers are at the receiving end!
They are forced to take ‘economic and credit risk’ to put food on the table!
For those not born poor and in need, it is difficult to understand, even those born poor, but now, behaving like bourgeoisie it may be a newly acquired ‘culture shock?’
And it is not because of ‘brand consciousness’ or trying to keep up with the â€˜Tajuddins, Tans and Ravidrans!’
There is a necessity!
When you are a parent with mouths to feed you will understand that pain!
Yes, they are in a credit crunch, a downward spiral with debt and living basically on credit, thanks to Banks and Credit Cards and their infamous strategies of keeping consumers in perpetual debt or worst the availability of Malaysia’s infamous moneylenders or ‘Ah Longs’ – in various shapes!
But you DO NOT blame the consumer for this and make it look as if he is at fault here!
You DO NOT profile them say that they are in that mode because they are ‘stupid’ having no financial education and that you are the intelligentsia, the bright spark, ‘the all knowing’ – gosh, who has now destined yourself to educate these now â€˜stupid fellas!â€™
You DO NOT say that you are coming with a major transformation program or that you are introducing key significant indicators to address market disparities and rising cost when you know surely this is an impossible and unrealistic promise!
You can ‘sing the same old mantra’ that consumers must become smart and disciplined through educating themselves and our families, to manage our finances not to be brand conscious, to cut the coat, batik shirt, baju kurung according to the cloth, or for that matter continue to plead, urge, mitigate the government, policymakers to raise income levels, not just as part of a bourgeoisie public relations stunt but realistically, in line with rising cost of living and inflation!
You can also introduce various forms of activity, stakeholders meetings, forums, chats, conferences and â€˜Rakan Programsâ€™ and other â€˜talk shopsâ€™ which will be exciting for those obsessed in writing research papers after research papers, making presentations after presentations since they are professional speech writers and have to justify their pay grade and existence!
But in reality – they will all fail!
They WILL FAIL this is a kid glove approach, because we are not addressing the core issues â€“ the monopolies, the wastage, the duplication, the corrupt practices, the seepage, the bleeding and abuse, the price escalations and other irregularities in the market place!
The draconian behavior of financial institutions, the hidden clauses and unfair trade and business practices, the vulgar greed of concessionaires and utility providers many a monopoly are the real contributors to this tragedy!
We foolishly think just by introducing a number of consumer related legislation, followed by the establishment of commissions and filling them with our cronies and business buddies, and, as an incentive to retiring public servants all will be well in the market place?
And when things indeed go wrong, we organize a talk shop and blame vulgarly, Malaysian Consumers!
If consumers have failed, we as consumerist have failed, and you, as a policymaker have failed, your legislation, your commissions, your entire approach, public policy has failed â€“ period!
What to do as it is difficult to know these days who are and who are not, consumer activist?
Sad these days even those who masquerading Â as consumerist are playing the same game plan as politicians and today we have difficulty to actually know who really is a consumerists and who is the politician with a goal perhaps to be the first consumerist senator in Malaysia!
I am told the lobby has started and certain media personalities paid significant allowances to keep these individuals in the public eye, especially in the vernacular media!
And how do I know?
One from such a media approached me and stated the above asking whether I too would like ‘their services’ but, I politely refused having neither that agenda, the financial means nor the appetite for such vulgar behavior!
And that is how low consumerism has sunk today but we have the audacity to blame consumers for the chaos in our marketplace?
CASSA CAMPAIGN: PROTECTING OUR WOMEN FOLK FROM ROBBERS!