SAVE AND CONSERVE...With the escalating prices of necessities, consumers have to be careful with their spending. Eating out should be an occasional treat instead of a daily affair. Pic: fotoBERNAMABy Melati Mohd Ariff
This last of the two part series touches on the increase in electricity tariff and what consumers can do to save on their money and resources.
KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 (Bernama) -- Many consumers have yet to feel the full brunt of the rise in the electricity tariff, which went into effect on June 1, 2011.
However, some people may suffer from sleepless nights thinking of ways to tighten their purse strings while anticipating the domino effect from the higher electricity tariff, such as the rise in prices of essentials and services.
While it is good to curtail spending and reduce debts, for those with large families the financial burden is definitely heavier.
Many are walking on a tight rope while balancing their budget, with their income depleted by the middle of the month. So a credit card or personal loan, even from loan sharks, becomes handy for some as the vicious debt cycle continues.
While Malaysians could count their blessings due to the inexpensive necessities they have enjoyed for many years, there still is nothing better than changing spending habits and saving money for a rainy day.
"The days of subsidised living are numbered, as the government has to review the subsidies on necessities due to the huge subsidy bill," noted Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman, Group Communications Director, Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca). He made his comments to Bernama recently when asked to discuss the rise in the electricity tariff and the impact on consumers.
THE GLOBAL MARKET
It is well-known that Malaysia greatly depends on food imports and is now vulnerable to fluctuating prices due to global economic upheavals and the change in weather patterns that has had an impact upon food producing nations.
"Under these circumstances, the government has no control over the price of the necessities. The same happens to fuel," noted Mohd Yusof.
The public should not only be taught about the marketing mechanism, but also the effect of rising prices on government subsidies.
"Concurrently, the government should inform the people on the impending increase in prices when the subsidy is withdrawn and find ways to help the poor and middle income earners, especially those with a large number of dependents.
"This includes the social safety net, upgrading of the public transportation system and so on," noted Mohd Yusof.
DON'T DEPEND ON SUBSIDY
Though the subsidy paid out by the government is meant to help people, Malaysians are not the only beneficiary, as more than one million foreigners living and working in the country also enjoy the same subsidy.
Mohd Yusof pointed out that, so far this year the government allocated RM23.7 billion, or 14.6 per cent of the administrative expenditure, on subsidies.
To maintain the retail price of fuel the government increased the petroleum subsidy, including that for RON95, diesel and LPG, from RM10.3 billion to RM15.9 billion.
The cooking oil subsidy to stabilise its market price also increased from RM928 million to RM1.6 billion.
Also, the sugar subsidy went up by 20 sen per kg in May, with the government allocating RM283 million in sugar subsidies.
Come festivals, consumers go on a spending spree. Money is spent on new clothing, furniture, equipment, and also on cookies and food.
Mohd Yusof noted that with the escalating prices of necessities, consumers have to be careful in their spending.
"Plan your expenditures carefully and spend within your means.
"Start saving early and have an estimate of the money that you will need during the festive season.
"This includes the cost of necessities, food, cost of traveling back home and others," he said.
For Muslims who will be fasting during the coming Ramadan, Mohd Yusof advised them to avoid waste.
"Often there is lots of waste during Ramadan, including in the menu when they break fast. Only buy what you need.
"If you want to buy necessities, make a list to avoid unnecessary purchases and just bring enough money to pay for the listed items," he said.
MAKING THE CONSUMERS AWARE
As a consumer organisation, Mohd Yusof said Fomca has always worked to create awareness among consumers and keep them posted about current developments.
One of the awareness campaigns is the National Consumer Campaign held with the cooperation of the National Youth Council of Malaysia, National Council of Women (NCWO), Cuepacs and Petronas.
Mohd Yusof noted that the campaign, launched in 2008, would continue until 2012 with the theme "Change Starts With Me."
Fomca, he said, has been organising community outreach programmes throughout the nation, with 201 programmes held in 2010, compared with 171 programmes in 2009.
Fomca also organises Financial Literacy programmes with the cooperation of Bank Negara Malaysia to help the younger generation learn how to better manage their money.
MAKE THAT CHANGE
Malaysian consumers have to learn about their own financial means before they start spending and should only spend on what they really need.
Also, people should not just depend on purchases, since items such as vegetables can be grown in their own yards.
Though most will shrug off the idea, in the long run they will realise how much they could save and, moreover, they will be helping the environment.
According to Mohd Yusof, the people in Malaysia should start thinking like their counterparts in developed nations.
"Malaysians have to become more responsible and accommodate the changes around them," he noted.