‘What happened to Malaysia?’

How is it that the cost of so many basic food items and day to day consumable items end up being so much more expensive in Malaysia compared to Singapore?

How is it that the cost of so many basic foods and day to day consumable items end up being so much more expensive in Malaysia? “A Malaysian earning peanuts in Malaysia can’t even afford to smell any peanut butter…SGD10 in Singapore goes a lot further than RM10 in Malaysia!” says my niece.

By Mimi Chih, Free Malaysia Today

How does one measure the success of a country? To the people, it is reflected in their overall standard of living.

Not every country is lucky enough to have a team of intelligent people whose passionate objectives drive them to make their country a better place to live – for everyone.

Singapore is one such country. Today this island republic has one of the highest standard of living in Southeast Asia.

When Tunku Abdul Rahman decided to expel Singapore from the Federation of Malaya leading to its independence on Aug 9, 1965, the world did not expect this tiny island republic with a population of 1.8 million then to stand tall as one of the original Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan 46 years later.

Which Malaysian could have imagined that some 46 years after the split, Singapore’s exchange rate to the ringgit would hit a dizzying rate of RM2.41 (as at Nov 11, 2011)?

The last time the Singapore dollar (SGD) was almost on part with the ringgit (RM) was in August 1972 when SGD 100 was equivalent to RM100.10.

For an average wage earner in Singapore, making SGD2,500 a month, going for a 10 days holiday to the US or Australia or Europe once a year is a relatively small matter.

Annoying issues

So what happened to Malaysia? In 1965 when Singapore was expelled, Malaysia had everything that the island republic glaringly lacked – ample land, a plethora of natural resources, an operating government, and 9.3 million people.

Unfortunately, in the 46 years that has come to past, Malaysia has been bogged down by a number of issues which are clearly distracting the government from doing what it is supposed to be doing.

The ruling government (Umno-Barisan Nasional) in Malaysia is debating whether education in English would be significantly beneficial to the rakyat.

The opposition PAS is vehement in wanting to forcibly implement the hudud laws and banning Elton John from performing in Malaysia because of his sexual orientation and the Obedient Wives Club’s proposition that Muslim women should be obedient and strive to approach sex with their hubbies not just on a physical level but on the higher spiritual realm.

Then there are also questions posed to DAP’s national chairman Karpal Singh by MCA’s leader Dr Chua Soi Lek.

Chua wants to know whether a non-Muslim should first convert to Islam if they wanted to be deputy prime minister should Pakatan become the ruling government.

These are just a handful of endless annoying issues which Umno has had to deal with on a daily basis.

RM pales to SGD

In 2011 Singapore’s population stands at 5.18 million (63% are Singaporean citizens while 37% are permanent residents).

Malaysia’s population as at July 2011 is 28.73 million. Without getting into advanced mathematical calculations, one would deduce that economies of scale would be more achievable in the country that has 28.73 million people versus 5.18 million.

But this is not the case.

The cost of living is relative to the ability to earn. Lets establish the value of currency in terms of the wage rate (Malaysia does not have a minimum wage rate yet).

In Singapore the average general worker such as a merchandiser in a supermarket or department store or the cashier serving you at Mc Donald’s earns SGD5.50 – 6.00 per hour.

In Malaysia similar positions start at RM4 – 6 per hour.

But take a look at how much things cost in Malaysia. A kopi si peng (iced coffee) costs between SGD0.90 to SGD1.20 in clean coffee shops or food courts in Singapore.

In Malaysia the same kopi si peng in coffee shops or food courts costs RM1.80 to RM2.00.

A Chinese roasted duck costs SGD18-25 each . In Malaysia, at the market rate of RM48 per bird, eating roasted duck is a luxury.