BN’s populist moves delayed price hikes, but leaving a stronger stingWhether it was populist measures or Perkasa that helped Barisan Nasional (BN) keep the government in the 13th general election, the reality is that both are now biting the ruling coalition just months after the May 5 polls.
BN's move to delay the price hikes and a mandatory minimum wage law ahead of the general election has resulted in growing anger among the middle and lower classes, especially those who supported the ruling coalition, as they cope with increased costs with a shrinking ringgit.
The sting of the rising cost of living is being felt more by the country's dominant Bumiputera community – from the villages in Perlis to the longhouses in Sabah and Sarawak – the areas where Malay rights group Perkasa is looking to gain support.
Apart from urban areas, these are also areas where Putrajaya's cash aid is seen as inadequate to cover basic needs.
For them, the new 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) of RM650 per household and RM450 for singles would not be able to cover the subsidy cuts in sugar and fuel or hikes in electricity tariffs, toll rates and public transport fares in Kuala Lumpur.
In the election 2013 campaign, BN had hinted that BR1M could go as high as RM1,200 a year but the Budget 2014 had only allocated RM650 a family with RM50 for insurance.
The same budget also contained proposals for a consumption tax, the goods and services tax (GST) at 6% effective April 2015, which critics say will add to rising costs of living.
But the Government believes otherwise and has even said it can cut trade mispricing.
These arguments are irrelevant to working Malaysians. And Perkasa is tapping it for support which its president Datuk Ibrahim Ali said yesterday could see it replace Umno in the BN, to the chagrin of the ruling party's officials.
“If Umno appears exhausted, tired and toothless, come on then, Perkasa can take your place,” Ibrahim said at Perkasa's fourth annual general assembly in Kuala Lumpur.
He even had the audacity to set key performance indicators (KPIs) for Putrajaya and its top office-bearers.
"There are so many issues worrying the people now with the price of fuel, sugar, electricity and toll rates going up.
"Therefore, one of the KPIs for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will be the cost of living," Ibrahim said.
Putrajaya's response has been to say it was setting up a lab to study the cost of living and make recommendations apart from a study on raising wages in tandem with price hikes.
Both appear out of touch with reality or an admission that BN does not have the grassroots network to poll working Malaysians or at least inform them that price hikes are inevitable because of rising business costs.
"We have to bite the bullet but Umno just wanted to be popular rather than do what is right of the country," a party warlord told The Malaysian Insider.
"All the delays did was to postpone the inevitable. And now we have a flood of price increases and subsidy cuts. Of course, people are angry, especially those who voted for us," he added. – December 23, 2013.