People queuing up outside moneychangers at the central business district in Singapore. While Singaporeans are spending more in Malaysia following the depreciation of the ringgit, some remain cautious with money. Reuters pic

FOR many weeks now, the decline in the value of the ringgit has further encouraged Singaporeans to splurge on shopping and food in Johor.

Though the presence of thousands of Singaporean shoppers in Johor is normal, especially during weekends and public holidays, they are now able to spend more than before.

An average of 16 million tourists from Singapore visit Malaysia every year. Johor Baru is not only their gateway to Malaysia, but also their first stop to refuel, recharge, stock up on groceries, or just to rest and relax.

Shukor, an event coordinator from Singapore who often travels to and from Kuala Lumpur, says there is much to celebrate with the lower value of the ringgit.

“Singaporeans are super excited about the exchange rate. We change our money to the ringgit, but we don’t spend much in JB because it is more expensive than other towns in Malaysia. Some Singaporeans travel further north to spend.”

While Malacca and Kuala Lumpur have always been popular choices, Shukor says Perak, Kedah and even the beaches and islands off Terengganu are now popular among Singaporeans.

But there is always two sides to every story. Not all Singaporeans are splurging following the depreciation of the ringgit.

Some Singaporeans who frequent the Angsana Mall in Johor Baru, which is popular among Malays from the republic, are cautious with money.

“We have to keep track of our expenses, even if the exchange rate is good,” says one shopper, who is worried that the Vehicle Entry Permit which will be imposed by Malaysia next month, will have an impact on her spending habits.

Singaporeans who flock to Johor comprise mostly those from the middle-income group who view their shopping trips across the causeway as a cost-cutting measure.

Shukor agrees, and says he tries not to be extravagant and pinch pennies when shopping in Johor Baru.

For Johoreans working in Singapore, the declining value of the ringgit has allowed them to have more disposable income.

My colleagues, Rizalman Hammim and Halim Said, interviewed some of them, who revealed that they were getting 10 per cent more from their wages after converting the Singapore dollar to the ringgit.

That they spend their extra income in Johor bodes well for the state’s business community.

“Many are taking the opportunity to splurge on groceries, toiletries and clothing. Some are pampering themselves by going to spas, which for many is a luxury that they could not afford before,” says S. Thiagu, a manager at a recycling plant in Jurong.

The ringgit is now valued at RM2.97 to SG$1.

However, Johoreans whose children attend school in Singapore are feeling the pinch as they fork out more for bus fares, toll and pocket money.

Freelance English language trainer Vincent D’Silva says these parents are facing a bigger burden now.

The Johor state assembly was
told there were 15,000 Johorean students who attended private schools in Singapore, where the education system used English as the medium of instruction.

“The parents are feeling the pinch because they have to fork out much more. They need to spend more for extra classes, food, toll and bus fares,” D’Silva says.

To help ease the burden of students who are struggling to make ends meet, perhaps the corporate sector can lend them a helping hand. They can emulate Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, who is helping Malaysian students in the United Kingdom and the United States by offering financial assistance for selected students through Yayasan Raja Zarith Sofiah Negeri Johor.

The writer is Johor NST bureau chief

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