IN a land where half the workers earn less than RM2,160 a month, one is moved to ask: is the cost of living today more oppressive than it was 20 years ago?
If it be food we speak about, a “higher cost” claim cannot hold true in Jenaris, I contend with the souls at NST’s hallowed roundtable. “Of other realms I do not know, but in this square of earth under heaven, life is just as hot and hard, cold and soft, both pairs sometimes in equal measure, as it was when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was first prime minister.”
In this blessed hamlet, a loaf of bread may be had for RM1.90, a haircut for RM5, and lunch of a golden chicken drumstick and two types of greens for RM5.50.
But mortals do not live on bread alone, I am reminded.
True, it is well-nigh impossible. The utility bills, the visits to the clinics and hospitals, the housing loans and the kids’ education cry out for money, and is it not obvious that their cries are getting louder these days?
The rich five per cent, in whose hands reside more than 60 per cent of the world’s wealth, give out no such cries. A calamitous day may come when this changes, as warned recently by former Reserve Bank of India governor Rajan Bhatt. When many of those who are not given help “revolt against capitalism”.
In the meantime, mortals such as you and me, armed with metaphorical stones and sticks, must do what we can. Perhaps we can scarcely hold back the forces that are pushing up prices and pushing out our dreams. But if we do nothing, this portion of misery which we received will we bequeath to our children too.
DO NOT BE SILENT IN THE FACE OF PRICE GOUGING
A friend relates this distressing tale.
“I work in a company that provides medical insurance up to a certain amount. Because my cholesterol level is high, the doctor put me on a prescription drug. I found out the clinic is charging 50 per cent more than what a pharmacy near my place is asking.
“The clinic, or the business it represents, has to make some money, but 50pc is unconscionable. It’s plain daylight robbery. I’ve written to the senior management. I have to try to do something.”
Alas, I’ve heard dismaying stories like this from private hospital patients too. We have to wage ‘war’ on them, these capitalists who have created an “efficient market system” to impoverish us. Our lips must arise from pursing slumber.
HAVE LESS ON THE PLATE AND IN THE MOUTH
Are my eyes deceiving me, or do you see it too? Seek out 10 souls at random; are not at least four obese or overweight?
It is a sign of the times; a portent of uglier things to come. The waist grows, health ebbs and cash goes.
As recent as in 2017, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Tackling Obesity in Asean” report said in Malaysia, the prevalence of obesity was at 13.3 per cent, with 38.5 per cent of the population overweight.
A monstrous toll does the condition exact, “equivalent to between 10 per cent and 19 per cent of national healthcare spending”.
Sadly, we ourselves, by our miserable habits, are conspirators in fuelling the rise in healthcare costs. Are we not eating ourselves into despair and debt with eyes wide open?
A good number in the upper reaches of the M40 group are untouched by the rise in prices. To them fortune has been kind, but some speak as if their troubles are equal to the hardships of B40 citizens.
I grow weary of them, those who groan about the cost of living (and blame the rulers) but who possess this and that and much more, and whose only obvious poverty is in the richness of their selfishness.
They should be ashamed.
They, along with the T20 super-rich, should make it a mission to aid their fellow man and woman instead. But if they choose to do nothing, then they must at least read about the great French upheaval in 1789 — of the fate that may await them.
Still, in Jenaris and in the wider lands that I love dearly, there is no rumour abroad of upheaval. Not a whisper. For we know that the cost is too high. Higher still than the rising cost of living.
But, sisters and brothers, we have to keep on believing that in this square of earth under heaven, we can make a difference.
David Christy is the NST production editor. He can be reached via [email protected]