By any other name, inflation has been colourfully described as a violent mugger, as frightening as an armed robber or even as deadly as a hit-man.
Stanley Koh, FMT
A glass of water costs 80 sen at a Kopitiam. This has led to an outcry over excessive profiteering. My next question is: How much do you think a boiled egg should cost?
My experience of ordering a hard-boiled egg with no sauce added cost me RM2, supplemented by no more than five thin slices of cucumber, which robbed me of another 50 sen at a popular Indian Muslim restaurant in Damansara Intan.
Let me elaborate.
To check the price of eggs which come in different grades, naturally the reliable source is the Federation of Livestock Farmers’ Association. The grades range from AA to F, and the average price of an egg is about 35 sen.
Assuming the non-air-conditioned restaurant in question sells boiled eggs of the AA grade, the retail price is only 37.5 sen. Even if electricity, water and rental costs are factored in, is RM2 for a hard-boiled egg reasonable? Or is it excessive profiteering?
It is a fact that more and more Malaysians are suffering from food prices, raw or cooked food, ranging from essential foods like local rice, sugar, cooking oil and gas, flour, vegetable, meat and fish products.
Even the quality of hawker food is deteriorating despite the hike in cooked food prices with an average bowl of noodles being priced between RM5 and RM6.
Have you come across a chicken rice stall operator slicing a small piece of chicken meat perpendicularly before chopping it vertically so as to create an illusion in multiplying the number of pieces before placing it on top of the rice?
Or food hawkers unscrupulously reducing condiments like green vegetables and prawns in your bowl of noodles while charging you a higher price?
So are you re-thinking your monthly grocery spending on your food bills trying to wriggle away from a black hole in your household budget every month?
Or are you stumbling at every step trying to put decent food on the table without compromising the nutritional value and a balanced diet for your family against escalating prices?
The culprit is called “inflation”. Some hardliners prefer to label it “excessive profiteering”.
A violent mugger
By any other name, inflation has been colourfully described as a violent mugger, as frightening as an armed robber or even as deadly as a hit-man. Ronald Reagan was probably right in condemning this economic sleaze activity.
The effects of inflation regardless whether imported or domestically driven by monopolies or the sheer greed of unscrupulous traders and business community have a negative impact on consumers.
On consumers, escalating food prices in the face of inflation lower the purchasing power of the ringgit, fanning a higher cost of living and ruthlessly lowering the quality of life.
Even the most common nutritional food like chicken eggs for grade AA cost only RM2.08 (for 10 eggs) in 1979. Today, the same grade cost you RM3.80 or more. Sugar price has gone up some 40% per kg from RM1.20 to RM2.50 since 2010. Milk products and fresh sea-food have gone up almost 200% across the board.
Price for sea-water prawns (3-4 cm) which cost RM7.10 per kg in 1979 has gone up between RM38 and RM45. As for sea-water crabs in 1979 priced at RM8.75 per kg is now RM17 or more per kg.
Prices for local green vegetables suffered the same fate of seasonal high prices going as high as RM8 to RM12 per kg like choy sum, spinach, brinjal and many others.
The prices of pork and meat products have been escalating over the months, such as lean and fat pork priced at RM15 per kg, pork belly at RM20 while minced meat at RM12. Roast pork is costlier at RM28 per kg. Even chicken drumsticks can cost between RM5 and RM6 per piece while the slaughtered and dressed chicken has gone up to RM7.80 per kg during the festive season period.
The middle-income average households’ monthly budgets are further stretched against worsening food prices, having to spend some 70% to 80% of household incomes on putting food on the table.
With little choice, poorer families have to find cheaper sources of food. Or they buy cheaper, less nutritional food.
Middle-income families make less frequent visits to more expensive restaurants unless they have to entertain friends or foreign visitors.
In 2005, a household survey found some 53% of those with a household income between RM1,500 and RM3,000 feeling the inflation squeeze. Would not the situation have gotten worse now as more and more evidence of excessive profiteering at cooked food outlets emerged?
Despite claimed subsidies by the government of some RM33.2 billion on essential food and fuel items, the biggest losers continue to be the poor and middle-income families.